Lights of holiday love between children and the elderly



This week, we as families gather together to celebrate a year of gratitude for all generations. It might have been a tough year in health, financially or with loss of loved ones, but hope may have entered with the birth of a new family member, adoption of a child, a marriage, a new job, moving to a new home, aging well and most of all living each day, because each day is a gift from God.
Opelika, Auburn and Lee County have always been such a light to so many of us as we celebrate the holidays, whether we are living through tough or good times. After Thanksgiving, young and old love to look at the decorations and participate in the events all over our community. Holidays are busier than usual routine days. We have different age children with different personalities. Holiday celebrations with cheerfulness, singing, bright lights, games and delicious seasonal foods are so much fun. As parents, we have to balance all this in order not to push them into sensory overload and anxiety. We want our families to enjoy the holidays, as well as each other. Being a Senior, I wanted to share with readers the ideas of intergenerational outreach as we ring in the bells of the holidays. The Observer will be listing all we have to look forward to as we celebrate Christmas and the holidays.
What a wonderful, sharing time of year between children and the elderly. The National Council on Aging defines intergenerational programs as activities that increase cooperation and exchange between two generations. A rich, valuable relationship between the young and seniors enlightens both generations.
During the holidays, our community retirement villages welcome children from schools, churches and community groups to provide programs of songs and Christmas cheer. It is necessary to call the directors at local facilities first to be sure they are allowing community groups to come in, because they must protect against seasonal flus and sickness. School classes and families can also send in child-made cards to encourage the elderly. Where I served as an activity assistant in South Alabama, we invited children to wave to many of our residents from outside. School classes made simple paper plate wreaths and decorations and caroled up and down the halls, with the residents waving and singing with them as they went by. It is the simple actions of kindness that mean so much to children and the elderly.
In planning ahead during the holidays, keep things simple around home activities. Quiet activities such as looking at family pictures, reflecting on the present and the past, reading Christmas books and poems, watching holiday movies and television programs, engaging in simple crafts, simple baking, painting and coloring provide educational opportunities for the younger and older generations as they share and exchange wisdom, love and joy with each other. Also, it provides wonderful creative opportunities.
Providing simple jigsaw puzzles, word games, board games, crossword puzzles, word searches, etc. offer opportunities for cognitive development and social interaction, as well as builds team work and cooperation skills for both the young and elderly.
Children and the elderly enjoy doing light exercises and movement. Joining hands and taking a walk to enjoy outside fun and observing nature provides a holiday field trip. Light exercises such as waving hands, marching in place, dancing, swinging and pretend play are things they can do together. Riding around our community and looking at the beautiful lights together as families is a wonderful intergenerational activity. Children provide such a spark of energy and enthusiasm to older adults. Children are truly blind to age differences.
Beth Pinyerd has taught in the Early Childhood Classroom for many years and has served the elderly in activities. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood education.