I am a huge fan of intergenerational activities.
Few things brighten up the face of a senior like a child. Even if the senior has severe neurological impairments associated with Alzheimer’s/dementia, the positive effects of engaging with a child are pretty obvious. I’m sure there are studies out there on the topic, but my experience on this comes from my family’s Alzheimer’s assisted living facility.
During the summers I have my children spend time with our residents. Not only do the seniors like it, but I believe it is good for my kids to be able to talk to elderly people without being scared and to listen to their stories, which are always wonderfully rich. The key, I have found, for getting a kid to talk to a senior is to properly break the ice.
With my kids, I gave them specific topics on what to ask the senior about based upon what I already knew about them. In a sense, it was a rough outline for an interview. This allowed them to get story-telling ball rolling.
Today, I heard about an initiative through StoryCorp (www.StoryCorps.me) where you can use their mobile app to record an interview with a senior and have it published to the Library of Congress. Pretty neat.
Combine this technology and the StoryCorp initiative with all the benefits of intergenerational programs and you’ve got something really special.
Even if you are not keen on publishing an interview to the world (which is what StoryCorps is all about), it is simple enough to record audio or video from a cell phone for private sharing. In fact, if your child grabs your phone to play games on it, I bet they know how to record a video. Just be sure to get permission from the senior first before recording their story.