Intergenerational (IG) Moments of Grace

Shannon Jarrott
IG Moments of Grace
Over the past 15 months, we’ve watched as the preschool children have progressed from being slightly apprehensive about activities with the seniors to asking when they will be able to work together again, being disappointed (even to the point of tears!) if it isn’t an IG day or isn’t their turn to participate in a small-group activity, and even requesting the seniors by name. One of the main goals of our program has been to help establish caring relationships between the generations, and we have truly seen that happen, and have watched as special bonds developed in several specific senior/child pairs, with one pair even independently exchanging farewell gifts at the end of the preschool year. When we ask for feedback after each IG experience most of the seniors say their favorite part of the activity was being with the children, and several of the children listed being with the seniors as their favorite part of preschool this year (even ahead of snack time and outside time!). In our final activity of this school year, one of the seniors commented that his favorite part of IG over the year has been watching the boy he has worked with several times “really come out of his shell.” And two of the seniors initially weren’t very eager to participate in IG, but became very interactive, were absolutely wonderful with the children, and were requested by name by some of the children. In our early IG experiences, the children would just verbally tell the seniors good-bye. This gradually progressed to high fives, and by the end of the year, the children would request and initiate good-bye hugs, going from senior to senior to make sure they hugged them all. When we look at pictures after the IG activities, it is touching and heartwarming to see the looks of joy, trust, warmth, and fellowship on those faces! Some of the comments we have heard from the children include: • “That was the best part of the day!” (Natalie) • “Every time we go, I just LOVE those guys!” (Jacob) • “Do I get to go to IG today?” (Samantha) • “I want to stay with the seniors longer!” (several children) We have also received many positive comments from the parents, particularly about how much more comfortable their children are with older adults and how interacting with the seniors has positively impacted their children: • “It is so amazing to me to see how much Jacob has grown while in this program . . . I'm glad Jacob is willing to hug his senior friends. He used to not like hugging anyone and he really has opened up quite a bit.” • “It warms my heart seeing Syris enjoying the time he spends with older generations in this program! It's absolutely amazing!” • “Aden can’t wait to tell me what he did with the seniors that day . . . I think this program is great for the kids and adults.” • “My child has overcome much of his shyness . . . He has opened up a lot more to the older adults. He’s a lot more talkative and playful but still remains polite and respectful.” The seniors’ caregivers have also seen positive changes: • “And this (IG) brings her so much joy. Bless you all for that.” • “She loves the interaction, has become quite attached to the children, and loves the activities they have done together.” • During the memorial service for one senior who passed away this year, his daughter specifically mentioned his joy, excitement, enthusiasm, and renewed energy from being part of the IG program (and even had IG pictures displayed at the service). Watching the seniors and children develop close relationships in our intergenerational experiences has truly been amazing and inspiring. We have been blessed to witness many priceless moments of grace between and among our seniors and children. They absolutely cherish each other!