When I was little, my Grandpa Jack would push my brother and I way up high on the swings, run underneath us, and yell, “UNDERDOG!” We thought it was hilarious every time. I tear up a little at the joy of this memory now. My grandpa Jack was such a special person in my childhood. He taught me how to play ping-pong and golf. He took me and my brothers hiking and ice-skating, and he always seemed to be in a jolly mood. He and my grandma set a wonderful example for us by their hard work, humility and doing the right thing.
It is always a pleasure to work with intergenerational families; being part of shared life skills is inspiring.
Pictured here are the Alpert Family volunteering in the JFS Food Pantry after collecting food and cleaning supplies during the JFS “Scavenger Hunt” to help the hungry in our community. Board Member Cathy Alpert invited her children and grandchildren, “It was a wonderful experience, as we all went to the grocery store first to purchase basics for people less fortunate,” Alpert said. “Then all the kids jumped in to help put the food from us and others on the shelves.” Alpert said both young and old appreciated the chance to think about the needs of others.
Unfortunately, our fast-paced world does not always promote meaningful relationships between older adults and children. Family members move; schedules stretch; and technology provides a near constant distraction; but the benefits of intergenerational relationships are real.
When old and young come together, both age groups learn from each other and gain new perspective. Seniors often say that spending time around children keeps them feeling young and combats loneliness. Passing along part of their life story preserves history, giving older adults a sense of purpose and a chance to share their wisdom with the younger generation. Pairing seniors and youth can prevent the formation of ageist attitudes. There are day care facilities that have been built in the same building as elder care facilities to promote these bonds.
JFS Care Managers understand the real benefits of intergenerational relationships, often sharing information with their older adult clients about local opportunities to connect with youth. Recently, I brought my baby to visit a local Holocaust survivor, and the smiles on both of their faces was truly priceless. My client was able to forget about her chronic pain if only for that hour-long visit—such a powerful intervention!
It may take a little extra time and intention to bring generations together, but the positive impact proves worth it.
For more information on the value of intergenerational connections, contact the Older Adult Care Management Department at (816) 333-1172. To explore intergenerational volunteer opportunities at JFS, please contact our Volunteer Department at (913) 730-1444 or see the Food Pantry Volunteer page for more information. (https://www.jfskc.org/food-pantry/)