Kids and seniors

Photography By Nasos Zovoilis/Stocksy

Kids & community involvement: why spending time with seniors is important

When seniors and kids hang out together, everyone benefits. Here’s how

What happens when preschoolers and seniors come together? Although you might think these two groups don’t have a whole lot in common, studies show both kids and the elderly benefit greatly from spending time together. Plus, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to show that seniors and kids of all ages, from preschoolers to teens, really get a kick out of sharing one another’s company.

What’s a kid got to gain from this type of community involvement? For starters, stronger emotional skills, including critical thinking, problem solving and social-interaction skills, according to a report from the Stanford Center on Longevity. They may also end up with better self-esteem, a sense of social responsibility and healthier attitudes toward aging. Meanwhile, seniors report less depression, better physical health and greater overall satisfaction with their lives. In fact, some cities have gone so far as to actually place preschool and daycare programs inside seniors’ homes. If that isn’t an option in our community (or at least, not yet), here are two great ways to get your kids involved with the seniors in your neighbourhood.

Volunteer with your kids

Ask your local seniors’ residence if they allow kids to visit, then plan a trip together. Some facilities might have a social hour, when seniors can mingle with visitors, or your kids might be paired with an individual who would benefit from their company. Before you go, talk to your kids about why it’s important to visit seniors, saying things like, “We’re going to go visit some older people because they enjoy meeting new people and it brightens their day.” And be sure to answer any questions your child might have beforehand, such as what a seniors’ residence is and what it will look like.

There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to show that seniors and kids of all ages, from preschoolers to teens, really get a kick out of sharing one another’s company.

Join a community group

If you have older kids, they may want to get involved with groups like Community & Home Assistance for Seniors (CHATS), a United Way agency that provides support and programs for seniors that enable them to live independently, safely and with dignity in their own homes for as long as possible. For the past few years, Christina Bisanz, CEO of CHATS, has seen heightened interest from high-school students looking for volunteer experience.

“We work with different schools in York Region because they’re often looking for opportunities for students to do their community service hours,” she says. “Some students say they specifically want to work with seniors.”

Recently, CHATS organized a digital storytelling program in which seniors shared stories about their life history and students worked with them to turn those stories into videos. “The seniors absolutely loved it, and the students were just so engaged and thrilled to be involved,” says Bisanz. Overall, the experience helped both seniors and students develop a greater appreciation for one another, and it doesn’t get much better than that.