Children as Therapy for Seniors

As the elderly age, unfortunately it’s common for them to become socially isolated. Whether it’s because of failing mental health or a lack of still-living family and friends, not having a social network is extremely lonely.

Intergenerational programs, where young children and senior citizens interact, are a wonderful way to help enhance the quality of life for seniors. For instance, the Intergenerational Learning Center in Seattle, WA is both a nursing home and a childcare facility. Children from infancy to five years of age spend time with the elderly, doing activities together that enhance everyone’s lives. Even without a facility to work with, consider bringing together your aging loved one with a preschool-aged child.

So how can hanging out with preschoolers help the elderly?

Increased self-worth. Having little kids around can foster nurturing feelings, giving an older person the opportunity to feel needed. When so much has to be done for them, it can be uplifting to be able to take care of someone else.

Children love to play! Rather than spending all day watching television or being talked to by nurses, seniors can benefit because children have an innate need to play. The elderly can sing, dance, laugh, play games, or just watch the kids as they engage in fun activities.

Movement is key. Most little kids can’t seem to sit still. Even though some retirees may have mobility issues, having always-on children around might just get them moving too. And physical activity gives a boost to emotional health as well.

Teaching and sharing. Senior citizens have so much information to share. Getting the chance to teach someone can be therapeutic. Little kids are the perfect subjects for teaching – if they can sit still long enough to listen.

Eliminating boredom. Isolation inevitably leads to boredom. Hanging out with preschoolers can give the elderly something to do. Whether through structured activities or unplanned free-for-alls, introducing little kids to seniors is bound to be exciting.

Think about asking your caregiver to introduce a preschooler or two to your loved one. You might be amazed at how much they enjoy each other.