By Tirzah Wear
Arlington Court Skilled Nursing & Rehab
Intergenerational Activities: Building Relationships for Life
It’s a quiet, snowy Saturday on the memory care unit at Arlington Court. In one area, a pair of seventh grade twins is tossing a ball with a group of residents. Sounds of encouragement and laughter are heard throughout the room. In another area, a sophomore in high school is doing nails for some ladies. The scent of lavender and rosemary is in the air. Artie Shaw is on the stereo. Lillian, a resident with dementia, admires her manicure. She then says, “I never had a daughter. Maybe you can be the girl I never had.” The student smiles and hugs her. “I already feel like I am, Lil!” And they burst into a warm comfortable laugh, the kind only two people who truly know each other can share.
These kinds of moments are frequent at Arlington Court where we have a robust youth volunteer program. Many of our pre-teens and teens are children of our staff members and have essentially grown-up helping the elderly. Even our confused residents light-up with recognition when these young people enter the room. They look forward to those special moments of connection and caring.
Intergenerational programs have been proven to improve the lives of seniors. Older adults who have consistent contact with children burn 20% more calories per week. They also have been shown to perform better on memory tests. (The Legacy Project) When young people and older adults work together, there is a shared sense of accomplishment and a deep sense of community.
This connection greatly benefits the children, too. Children who spend quality time with older adults tend to have higher scores on reading tests. (The Legacy Project) Fostering a love of history and developing a personal connection with the past is a crucial part of creating a sense of community. We are also nurturing a sense of empathy in these volunteers, which helps them grow into caring adults.
Arlington Court is unique to most volunteer programs because we encourage longevity and consistency in our youth. Many facilities simply have the Boy Scouts visit at Christmas or occasional concerts from the local schools. While those programs are wonderful, there isn’t enough time to develop true and lasting relationships. Our program gives our residents the opportunity to stand beside our youth as they grow into strong and caring adults. This sets our facility apart. It allows the space for us to be much more than just another nursing home. We are truly a family.
If you or a family member would like to volunteer at Arlington Court, please call 614-451-5677