The Prisco Community Center is always a hub of activity, but Thursdays are especially noteworthy.
Every week, as lunchtime approaches, members of the Friendly Center Club (seniors 55 and better) arrive for their big luncheon. At the same time, numerous preschool classes are letting out.
I always enjoy seeing the interaction when the two groups encounter each other. The seniors light up, smiling with delight as they say hello to the little greeters. And the young children are always excited as they point to their artwork on the bulletin board and explain with great enthusiasm how much they enjoyed their cool school project.
Those encounters are often referred to today as intergenerational interaction. Like visiting grandparents, it used to be common in our culture, and experts say it still needs to be. The unique connections between children and seniors have innumerable benefits for both.
The Fox Valley Park District is putting increased emphasis on strengthening this important bond by expanding its number of programs that offer intergenerational opportunities. These programs represent a largely untapped, viable resource for promoting physical activity and wellness that offer benefits across the board.
“Spend Some Time Together” is the motto, and the initiative features dozens of programs year-round that provide such opportunities. Outdoor endeavors include programs such as hiking, fishing, camping, bicycling, dog parks and nature exploration tours. Indoor activities can include music classes, swimming, fitness and educational programs.
The old and the young are two groups with much in common. They have time on their hands, they are sometimes under-appreciated, and they have a lot to offer each other. But as families become busier and busier, these groups hardly know each other. They exist in very separate spheres of life, but have so much to give each other.
To a young child, a grandparent is viewed as a worldly teacher, someone full of wisdom and knowledge. They’ve been to so many places, and their stories are fascinating.
Seniors see young children in an equally remarkable light. Numerous studies show that older adults who are involved in intergenerational activities feel happier. Increasing physical, cognitive and social activity through intergenerational programs can help improve health for an aging population and enhance educational learning for children.
Today’s youth can also offer insight for their elders. Seeing a grandchild provide computer lessons to a grandparent is a common and heartwarming sight. Who do you think helped Grandpa change the settings on that new Smartphone?
At the same time, seniors are positive role models for today’s youth, helping to foster friendships across generations. That type of interaction helps youth enhance communication skills while also promoting their self-confidence and esteem.
As renowned psychologist and author Mary Pipher writes, “Many communities are realizing the value of connecting the young and old. Older people are often wiser and less stressed than the rest of us and they have time and patience. Seniors are not checking their watch, laptop or Blackberry constantly. Young children need the wisdom and patience of the older generation and old people need the innocence and vitality that only a young child can offer.”
Communities like ours – ones that realize the value of connecting the young and old – are communities that flourish. Nothing naïve about it, because good times never get old.
Fox Valley Park District
Saturday, Nov. 17: Tin Pan Alley Cabaret Fundraiser: From Gershwin to Porter, Prisco Community Center, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 1-2: Polar Express at Blackberry Farm, 1 to 5 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 6: Super Couponing with Jill Cataldo, Eola Community Center, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at email@example.com