Families who are fortunate enough to have multiple generations residing under one roof during these challenging times can take comfort knowing they have a built-in support system that can provide love, strength and companionship.
While cohabitating with multiple family members that range in age can pose its challenges, it also has advantages economically, physically, psychologically and emotionally.
Family members can pitch-in with chores, help look after young children and attend to elders who may need a little extra assistance. In a time when uncertainty, fear and anxiety may be elevated, family members of all ages can greatly benefit from having someone to talk to, depend on and laugh with. Partaking in activities that provide a diversion, foster feelings of closeness, elevate mood, or give rise to laughter can be an excellent way to build bonds between family members.
Families Canada has developed an intergenerational resource kit, Bringing Together Seniors and Children, which offers a variety of activities to help family members of all ages. These activities can help seniors and children stay engaged and stimulated, relieve stress and promote emotional well-being, while remaining sequestered and safe at home.
The goal of these activities is to foster positive relationships between children and their elders. Seniors’ life experiences and skills can be of great value to their grandchildren. Time spent interacting and playing together can improve memory and motor skills, enhance brain function and mental agility, and prevent loneliness and isolation.
Spending a sunny morning in the backyard, planting seedlings together, teaching grandchildren about the different varieties of plants is a simple, rewarding intergenerational activity that can be enjoyed for months, as the garden flourishes.
Reading a favourite storybook together before bedtime can bring welcome feelings of quiet and calm to both young and old. As the child turns the pages of the book, asking questions of their grandparent, special memories can be created that last a lifetime.
Music is a universal medium that evokes emotion and has the power to connect people of all generations in profound ways. Singalongs and dance time together have physical and cognitive benefits, and can be energizing and uplifting. Playing an instrument, or listening to popular songs and rhythmic rhymes can inspire everyone in the house to sing and dance.
Arts and crafts projects are also a fun, easy and inexpensive cross-generational activity that can be enjoyed using simple items found in the home like paper plates, empty egg cartons, construction paper and stickers to make colourful masterpieces. These projects can increase cognitive skills and intellectual stimulation, improve motor skills, encourage communication, relieve stress and depression and promote self-expression.
Cooking a meal, or baking tasty sweets together allows grandparents to spend a morning or afternoon bonding with the kids, imparting invaluable life skills, and sharing secret recipes that the entire family can enjoy at mealtime.
As we protect and care for older adults living in our homes during the pandemic, and practice protocols to ensure their well-being, when grandparents and children participate in activities safely that encourage togetherness, this builds precious bonds across generations that last a lifetime.