At Sunshine Care, we make intergenerational activities a centerpiece of our activities program, because we’ve seen how big of a difference they can make in the lives of kids and of our residents. In your own life, you may wonder if it is possible to create a relationship between your children and their grandparents or great-grandparents with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It is! You can set up many activities that young and old alike will enjoy, and in the process you may see a new bond forged across the generations.
Why Intergenerational Activities Are So Important
Many children do not grow up around older adults and may even feel scared about spending time with them. We’ve seen in our intergenerational program that some children are shy at first when they come to meet our residents, but before long they are smiling, laughing, and having a great time. Our residents teach children important lessons, like patience, tolerance, and understanding. They also have many amazing stories to share from their lives that can give children new perspectives.
On the flip side of the coin, our residents cherish the time they spend with children. Whenever children come to visit our facility, all the inner grandmas and grandpas come out!
This can happen in your household as well. Pick an activity and invite your children and your loved one to work together on it. Before you know it, a new relationship will bloom. To get things started, you will need to choose an activity that is appropriate for the age level of your children and for your loved one. A person with Alzheimer’s or dementia does best with simple, short, and repetitive tasks that do not require fine motor control or intense concentration. Here are five of our favorite intergenerational activities:
- Gardening – One of our most popular programs is our intergenerational garden. Together, children and residents dig holes, plant seeds, water and feed their seedlings, and weed. It’s amazing to watch the shoots peek through the soil and grow into delicious fruits and veggies. You can start a garden in your home as well. Prepare all the supplies and give your children and your loved one simple tasks to complete. A raised garden is a great option, as it will mean less kneeling and bending for your loved one. (See our previous blog post about gardening and dementia.)
- Music – Ever wished your children had a better appreciation for classic music? Now is the time for them to learn. Work with your loved one to put together a play list of their favorite songs and then, together, teach them to your children. At Sunshine Care, we’ve noticed that our residents somehow always remember the lyrics to their favorite songs. A family singalong is a fun and carefree activity.
- Coloring – Go to your local big box retailer or kids store and buy a few packs of colored pencils and coloring books with fun pictures. (Avoid the new adult coloring books hitting the market, as these images tend to be complicated). Put out some snacks, add fun music in the background, and let your children and family members get to work. Now you’ll have lots of pretty pictures to stick to the fridge.
- Arts and Crafts – You may be surprised at how many simple craft projects you can find that your children and older generations will love doing together. Just to get an idea, here’s an article we wrote on Ten Fun Holiday Activities You Can Do with Family Members who Have Dementia, which includes many excellent arts and crafts. When deciding what arts and crafts to do, think about activities that can be broken down into simple tasks. Also, be prepared to handle a lot of the setup and to jump in when needed, such as taking cookies into and out of the oven.
- Big Piece Puzzles – If you are a fan of jigsaw puzzles, then you know how sweet it feels when that last piece clicks into place. While your loved one may not be able to handle 5,000 tiny pieces, they often enjoy 100-piece or 250-piece puzzles. Your little ones can help, and together, you can all see the final picture take shape.
There’s no excuse for not encouraging your children to spend time with their elders. They may resist or be shy at first, but a fun and engaging activity will break down the barriers of uncertainty. Soon, your children will want to spend time with their grandparents or great-grandparents!
If you want even more great activity ideas for a person with dementia or Alzheimer, or if you are feeling the strain of caregiver responsibilities, consider visiting our monthly support group for caregivers & families.
Categories: Memory Care