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Why You Should “Adopt” A Senior This Grandparents Day

If you’re lucky enough to have a grandparent or older adult in your life, you already know that they can be pretty great people. And while you already show appreciation to them on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, there’s another day coming up that celebrates them with regards to their unique role in your life: Grandparents Day.

Sure, it sounds like a “Hallmark Holiday,” but Grandparents Day is an actual celebration that’s nationally recognized. It was created in 1970 by Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, who was extremely passionate about connecting the older and younger generations. The holiday became official in 1978, and is celebrated these days on the first Sunday in September after Labor Day (September 9 in 2018).

Now, we all know the importance of showing appreciation every day, not just on special holidays. So for this Grandparents Day, why not consider taking those relationships a step up and making them even more a part of your everyday life? If you don’t have a grandparent or other older adult in your life, there are lots of older adults out there who could benefit greatly from a friendship with a younger person.

Lots of studies have been done about the benefits of intergenerational relationships. It makes a lot of sense that there would be big benefits for the older person, but it may surprise you that the younger people get a lot of benefits, too. Here are just some of the perks of making friends with a senior:

  1. Learn new skills. This goes both ways! Seniors can share their life experiences, outlooks and knowledge, which can be really helpful if you have a problem or need someone’s advice. And the younger generation can teach older people a lot, too, whether it’s the most up-to-date technology, what’s hot and new in society or even a new skill (don’t laugh—there are stories of skateboarders who started the craft when they were in their 70s).

  2. Invigorate and energize older adults. By having younger people around, seniors become more energetic, more active and have a better mental outlook—all of which lead to a better quality of life. By volunteering your youthful energy, you’re helping an older adult live better, which is pretty rewarding.

  3. Develop positive friendships and broaden minds. When we hang out with people who are really similar to us, we see a very specific view of the world. By making friends with people who are different than us, we see a different slice of life, which helps to broaden our experiences and our outlook on life.

There are programs like “foster grandparenting” that you can look into to connect seniors and younger people, but another great way to find older relationships are through activities you already do or through volunteering your time at a senior living community. However you choose to find an older friend, here are some activities you can do together to help build a friendship and learn from each other:

  1. Tell stories. Ask the older adult to share some of their favorite stories about growing up. You can even make it a “story hour” and invite all the family over so people can learn about Grandma or Grandpa’s childhood adventures. Come prepared with a list of questions and consider recording the conversation so you have it for posterity.

  2. Play music. What is your favorite music? And what’s the older person’s favorite music? Sharing your favorite songs with each other and discussing why you like them is a great way to learn about different musical styles and gain insight about each other.

  3. Do a fun activity together. If Grandpa is a master woodworker, ask him to do a 101 session to teach some of the basics. Does Grandma have a super-secret family recipe for bread? Spend an afternoon in the kitchen together creating masterpieces. Likewise, is there something you do that the senior might enjoy learning, like gaming or a particular craft you enjoy? You can also spend an afternoon going to a baseball game, an amusement park or getting ice cream in the park.

The most important gift you can give to anyone—young and old alike—is your time and attention. By adopting an older adult and making them a part of your life, you’re not just helping them…you’re helping yourself, too. You may find you’re creating a friendship that will be one of the most rewarding of your life!

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