• Phyllis Prestamo

Young & Old Happy Together - Benefits for Both

When my husband and I were looking to downsize, we explored many potential new places to live. We looked at both 55+ communities and those communities with multi-generational residents. It didn't take long for of us to agree that we preferred a multi-generational community. You'd think that after spending over 30 years with children in my profession being with kids would be the last thing I wanted, but in fact it's something I still enjoy. Hearing kids outside riding bikes or a playing a game makes my heart sing. Having four grandchildren has been one of our greatest joys and one of the 55+ communities had restrictions banning children from their pool and other recreational areas which was definitely a deal breaker for us. Our neighborhood of townhouses includes everything from young families just starting out, single professionals, and two-working households to retirees just like us.

According to psychologists older adults and youth both benefit from sharing time together. Erik Erikson, one of the first psychologists to describe social development across the lifespan, described the final stage of emotional development as it is experienced around the age of 60 and older. Being around youth helps older adults achieve a feeling of well-being and in turn also helps in the development of the young. In the not so distant past, it was not unusual for families across the generations to live in the same house or at least very near by. I grew up in a two-family house with my paternal grandparents and stopped in every afternoon for tea, before heading upstairs to do homework. I was very close with these grandparents; I learned to sew, knit, crochet and craft from my Grandma El and I loved hearing my grandfather, "Bebop", tell stories about how he left home as a teen and traveled the world on an English Merchant ship, or imitated his Scottish grandfather's accent or sang an old cockney drinking song. I treasure those memories especially now they have been gone for so long.

My husband and I are truly blessed with four wonderful grandchildren. We have made it a priority to spend time with the kids together and more recently as they are getting older one-on-one. My husband has taken our oldest grandson, Josh who is 12, golfing and to a golf match. Ava, 11, and I went to NYC last summer and experimented with coloring her dragon drawings with watercolors last month. Zoe, 9, is our budding fashion designer and we have been working with patterns and learning to sew on the sewing machine. Evan, 9, had fun exploring the Machines Exhibit at the Morris Museum last summer and loves to sit with me and share the latest in tech apps; he can spend hours telling me about how to create a new solar system and how to not blow up one of the newly formed planets. We also volunteer as Senior High Youth advisors at our church, making connections with teens and helping them navigate their spiritual growth and being a teen in the 21st century.

Whether you have grandchildren of your own, nieces, nephews, young neighbors or not finding an opportunity to make a connection with a child or young adult can be mutually beneficial. Here are just a few examples to get you thinking.

Such relationships can:

  1. Provide an opportunity for both to learn new skills

  2. Give the youth and the older adult a sense of purpose

  3. Help to alleviate fears children may have of the elderly

  4. Help children to understand and later accept their own aging

  5. Invigorate and energize older adults

  6. Help reduce the likelihood of depression in the elderly

  7. Reduce the isolation of older adults

  8. Fill a void for children who do not have grandparents available to them

  9. Help keep family stories and history alive

  10. Aide in cognitive  stimulation as well as broaden social circles should a youth introduce technology into the life a senior (a church near us pairs teens with older adults teaching them how to navigate and use their cell phones)

Spending time with kids has helped me stay young or at least young at heart and has given me such rich experiences. One thing that the pandemic has taught us, is that there are many alternative ways to communicate. Zooming, Face-timing, Google Hangouts and texting have become the norm for this 60+. So give it a try!

Crafting with Grammy Phyllis!

We made our own sand clay to remember our fun time at the beach.

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