This weekend I was taking flowers to one of our precious residents for her birthday. When I walked into the assisted living community right away I noticed how beautifully the dining area had been transformed into the perfect setting for a birthday celebration. There were balloons, flowers, Happy Birthday signs, two kinds of cakes and more. (I also later found out that her son made homemade Butterfinger ice cream at his Mom’s request. YUM!) The resident’s family had done a lovely job celebrating their Mom and making her party special. I immediately was greeted by one of the daughters and we shared some friendly conversation and I told her how lovely everything looked for the party. It was during this conversation that it hit me…these adult children were in the phase of life where they still planned celebrations for their own children that were becoming young adults and making sure that their parent was celebrated as well. That is a TOUGH balancing act. Being so many things to so many people can be tough! So, I thought, what would be the best advice for new people coming into this role? The role of having a loved one in assisted living can be a challenge. What would be a good idea for their Mom on Mother’s Day? This family had it all figured out. Now for Mother’s Day of course balloons and birthday décor are not fitting. But taking time to spend time is the best gift of all.
Now that I feel like I have caught my breath after National Assisted Living Week, I want to share something that I have known about for quite some time. As a matter of a fact, I benefitted from it as a child myself. See…as a little girl, my Mom would take me with her to work. My Mom has always been a pro at styling hair and in my younger years, this was her profession. As a beautician, she would do hair for her regular customers, but she also did hair at the local nursing home and assisted living. Now in my single digit years, my trade was singing and tap dancing. This proved to be quite the asset to my mom with her scissors, perm rods and hairspray. She would always plan for me and some of my other performing arts sisters to put on a show for the older folks. I loved every opportunity to perform (and to talk) so I was game. Little did I know then, but these residents were as happy to see me as I was to see them. I remember the performances of course. But I also remember eating gingerbread cookies, looking at pictures and having a captive audience to whatever I wanted to talk about. I also remember the stories. At almost 42 years of age, I still remember Hazel. Mrs. Hazel was my friend. She always wanted me to sing and tap dance for her. Mrs. Hazel didn’t have grandchildren of her own and it was her delight to have our little visits. But it was something I enjoyed very much as well. I think it was this type of friendship in my formative years that led me to where I am today. I may not be tap dancing anymore…well, come to think of it…maybe I do. I am an Assisted Living Administrator, so technically I sing and tap dance for seniors on a regular basis. Just to whatever tune they are requesting I suppose. 😉 But it is a joy. A joy that started a very long time ago for me. I witnessed the most beautiful visits this past week from a class of preschoolers with our residents at the Gardens. It was wide open, head back laughing FUN! Literally fun for all ages. The new rage is intergenerational involvement. But the concept is not new at all. Studies have shown that these type of interactions prove beneficial for both sets of people…young and old. Below are the benefits for seniors and children according to legacyproject.org.
- Active, involved older adults with close intergenerational connections consistently report much less depression, better physical health, and higher degrees of life satisfaction. They tend to be happier with their present life and more hopeful for the future.
- Young and old can fulfill the role of student and teacher for each other, and it’s not always the older person who does the teaching. Children like to feel needed, and they can teach elders lots of things – like how to find some pretty cool stuff on the Internet! Children can also help older people, particularly those facing health challenges or other losses, see the world anew again, through a child’s eyes.
Benefits for Children
- In general, children develop higher self-esteem, better emotional and social skills (including an ability to withstand peer pressure), and can even have better grades in school.
- Through sharing in an older adult’s interests, skills, and hobbies, children are introduced to new activities and ideas. Through their life experience, older adults can often bring with them a tremendous amount of patience. Knowledge, skills, and attitudes children pick up from elders tend to stick with them through life more than those picked up from other sources.
As a product of this type of intergenerational impact, I can tell you that you are missing out if don’t find your own Mrs. Hazel. I also now see this type of influence through the eyes of my residents and for them as well, it is a beautiful thing. Thank you to those precious children that shared bubbles and ice cream with your new friends at the Gardens last week. We look forward to seeing you again real soon!
*Photograph from my personal archives circa the early 80s. I’m the brunette in the front. No, I’m not a natural blonde. 😉