Bridging the Gap

By Aysha Cooper

I was inspired to write about intergenerational programs after learning from a dear friend that lives in Denver about a program she implemented at her center called, Granny Does Graffiti. 

Now that may sound like an unexpected connection but it worked for them and they will be featured in their community newspapers and radio stations about how youth that use graffiti to leave their mark were paired with individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s leave their mark too.  

Intergenerational programs can open up memories and pathways in the brain for people to be creative and engage with others.   People who suffer from Alzheimer’s are not in control of losing precious memories but can use these programs to create new ones.  A participant of the program shared “It’s part of the education of life – you try things, you see different things.” 

According to an article in Senior Lifestyle, older adults with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairments experience more positive effects during interactions with youth and children than they did during non-generational activities.  And, children interacting with older adults enable youth to develop social networks, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and positive attitudes toward aging.  So we need to find more ways to connect these two groups of people to introduce the profound effects they can have on each other.  

At our center and most senior care facilities, intergenerational programs are part of the activity planning.  We strive to keep these two groups connected because we see the benefits.  The Goddard School of Snellville is in walking distance of our center.  They schedule times to bring over 2-3 classes of children during various holidays throughout the year to sing to our participants, bring them cards and hugs.  

We are also involved with the Explorer Program, a program bringing high school students that have a career interest in healthcare to learn about our center professionals but also complete a project with a buddy (one of our participants).  This project allows them to have one on one time and learn about each other leaving the participant with a keepsake they can reflect on and remember.  

The sandwich generation has an opportunity to keep mom or dad that may be suffering from Alzheimer’s involved with kids and grandkids.  It can be as simple as including them in a dance recital or ball game, letting them read their favorite books to each other, or family visits.  Of course you will need to be aware of your loved ones behaviors with activities that can present overstimulation.  Use your best judgment but keep your loved one with Alzheimer’s involved and connected.  

Together we can break down the stereotypes of what people with Alzheimer’s can do and make sure they are remembered.

Aysha Cooper is the owner of SarahCare of Snellville.  She has a bachelor’s degree in Public Health and an MBA from UGA.  She stays connected to her community as an Alumni of GNLI and currently serving on the board of Friends of Gwinnett County Senior Services. You can reach Aysha Cooper by email: acooper@sarahcare.com or by calling SarahCare in Snellville at 770-685-6971. 1567 Janmar Road, Snellville, Suite 200, GA 30078

 

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