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The Power of Intergenerational Relationships in Senior Living

There has never been a better time to embrace friendships and relationships, especially intergenerational ones. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a pandemic of loneliness was already setting in due to advancements in technology that have been rapidly changing our traditional methods of connecting.

According to a New York Times article, “United States surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, said the country was experiencing an epidemic of loneliness, driven by the accelerated pace of life and the spread of technology into all our social interactions. With this acceleration, he said, efficiency and convenience have “edged out” the time-consuming messiness of real relationships.”

For seniors who have lost spouses or loved ones, loneliness can be more overwhelming, especially if they have not learned how to embrace new technologies for connection. The benefit for seniors to connect with school-aged children extends beyond immediate socialization and companionship. Scientific research has increasingly supported the significance of intergenerational engagement, highlighting its favorable effects on the health of both seniors and children.

The American Society on Aging emphasizes Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, of which there are five: physiological, safety, esteem, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization – “stage three, love and belonging is critical to relationship building and to how individuals connect with one another. Love and belonging can be perceived as intergenerational connectors. It is essential to understand that connecting with others to build a sense of belonging is imperative to self-fulfillment.” A lack of love and belonging could lead to a decrease in cognitive function, lowered self-esteem, and in the direst situations, an increase in death.

At Maplewood Senior Living, we cultivate a lifestyle based on a heart-led philosophy of vibrant, intentional living founded on nine essential lifestyle building blocks. These elemental building blocks include enlivened engagement, intentional living, movement for wellness, enriching arts, a sense of community, family connection, brain health, energizing environments, and shared laughter. We have found through all our communities that engagement with a wide range of people both in the community and outside has great benefits for our residents. Intergenerational programming proves to be beneficial both for our residents and the younger generations that participate. 

Maplewood at Princeton, located in New Jersey, runs a successful intergenerational program with Discovery Years Child Learning Center™. The children often visit the Maplewood at Princeton residents – sing for them during the holidays and deliver treats. 

Maplewood at Princeton reciprocates by helping the preschoolers learn to read. 

On Fridays, residents visit the Discovery Years’ classrooms and read favorite books to the children. Residents who were former teachers spend a little extra time teaching the children the meaning of new words and providing important life lessons, such as being kind to one another. 

“The relationship that we have with the residents at Maplewood is priceless. 

“It brings smiles to our students’ faces and it teaches them how to respect elders,” said Jessica Pietrefesa, Director at the school. “Many of our students are not fortunate enough to have their grandparents nearby. 

This program gives the students some excitement and something to look forward to at the end of the week. 

Our teachers enjoy being able to sit back and watch their students grow and learn from a different perspective. This program means so much to everyone here at Discovery Years. It t holds a special place in my heart because every resident that comes by has a unique backstory and I enjoy getting to know each one.”

Teresa is one of our volunteers. “I love the program, because it brings me back to when my children were young. I like that as soon as I enter the classroom and the children see me, they hug my legs and then sit so attentively to listen to the story.”

Resident Mary Alice was a teacher in Ohio and taught elementary school children and high school students. Now she is now reading to the children at Discovery Years. “The children are so receptive to learning,” says Mary Alice. 

They ask questions and are so excited when I read to them.”  

“My mother was an English teacher and reading specialist for over 25 years. It was her passion in life and brought her more joy than anything aside from her family. She had a very special gift to help the most challenged students and get them to a new level of reading that lead to confidence and incredible opportunities for their futures,” said Alexis (Mary Alice’s daughter). 

Alexis continued, “Since my mother has been living with frontotemporal dementia, reading has not been an action she has been able to focus on, until the Reading Buddies program. I’ve never seen her so alive or focused over the last ten years as I have in the videos of her reading to the kids. She not only has been able to read to them, but somehow, she’s able to actually teaching them the book, which is the most beautiful gift to her life in this moment in time. I’m so grateful she’s able to take part in this program.”

Learn more about how Maplewood Senior Living incorporates our nine elements into day-to-day living and the benefits for our residents. Please contact us today to schedule a tour. 

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Westport, CT 06880

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