Editorial: Kids and seniors get along better with each other

Aug 29, 2018 at 4:30 AM

There was a time when young children and senior citizens interacted more naturally through their extended families and in yesteryear’s more stable neighborhoods.

But with today’s transience and far-flung family members, it takes intentional programming of creative caregivers to young and old alike to seek out opportunities for that benefits both age groups.

Kudos to Champion Intergenerational Enrichment and Education Center on the Near East Side for modeling how to serve preschoolers and pensioners together in ways that can’t compare to catering to the groups separately.

Champion combines dedicated physical space with purposeful programs in a partnership between Columbus Early Learning Centers, National Church Residences and Ohio State University. It boasts a senior center on one side and a preschool on the other with space in between for the two cohorts to congregate. The center opened almost three years ago in what had been a community center for Poindexter Village,

Not surprisingly, Ohio State documented real rewards of bringing young and old together in a study with the Eisner Foundation and Generations United, two groups that promote intergenerational interaction.

Seniors benefit with improved physical and mental health by spending time with children and babies, the study found, while youngsters have better social development and more-positive perceptions of the elderly after spending time with them.

There is no better time for better ways to serve seniors. Franklin County’s senior population is expected to nearly double by 2040, going from 115,706 in 2010 to 224,340, according to a study by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the OSU College of Social Work. By 2050, 1 in 5 central Ohioans will be 65 or older, as noted in the Insight 2050 report on area population growth.

The city’s Age Friendly Columbus initiative has as one of its goals creating “a respectful culture that honors all older adults by offering opportunities and encouraging participation in the community.” One of its strategies includes “partner with PreK-12 schools to increase intergenerational volunteering and learning.” Champion’s program is a good model for doing exactly that.

Hands-on sensitivity

meets elderly‘s needs

The growing demographic of seniors is also good reason for local home-care franchise provider Comfort Keepers to spend time training its caregivers on what they will encounter in the homes of their elderly clients.

By creating a model residence in their Westerville training center, owners Tricia and Tim McConnell are smart to prepare their 230 employees on how to approach senior citizens with respect and sensitivity for environments and eccentricities that may otherwise seem foreign.

For example, the training site wisely teaches caregivers that what may appear to them as clutter could be the only physical reminders some seniors have from earlier days. A sign atop a television set overloaded with knickknacks in the model home explains, “these are precious keepsakes collected through many years. Just like a museum, I respect every item.”

Staff members are also encouraged to pack their lunch and eat with clients, using the opportunity for conversation and interaction to help encourage healthy appetites.

Time, respect and understanding are gifts that caregivers can and should offer the elderly. When we all find ways to pay more thoughtful attention to expanding ranks of senior citizens, our community will truly deserve to be known as Age Friendly Columbus.

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