INCLUSION IN ACTION: Recreation For All Ages

Recreation For All Ages

Dave sharing his wisdom on coloring to a very engaged group of play schoolers.

Inclusion In Action, Plugged In’s new initiative is about looking for ways to connect different sectors of our community!

The Recreation For All Ages program is the first of many extraordinary projects we hope to take on as a charity to be purposeful as an organization!

So what is Inclusion In Action: Recreation For All Ages ….. It is the cross generational exploration of play. It allows for learning, teaching and playing to happen between the very wise and the very young.

We know that the elderly are at high risk of social isolation as they age, particularly if they live in seniors homes. This is a common concern as the elderly are adjusting to new stages of their life, and may be losing people who are close to them. There is a high correlation between social isolation and an advanced death or decline in mobility. This is a critical time to foster social interaction and a feeling of connectedness, in order to lengthen their lives and provide greater fulfillment.

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Here is what we know about elderly seclusion…… Social connectedness is a key tenant of healthy aging and having meaningful and supportive social relationships to reduce risk for early death. Older adults who experience loneliness have an increased risk of dying sooner, are more likely to experience a decline in their mobility, and are at higher risk for dementia, when compared to those who are not lonely. When major changes occur in the lives of seniors, when spouses and friends pass away and ailments keep them confined to their homes, it can result in feelings of isolation and depression.

There are many benefits to exposing the elderly to small children and allowing for interaction. These benefits include teaching new skills to the children and elderly, providing the elderly with a sense of purpose and greater fulfillment, energizing the elderly, reducing feelings of depression and isolation, providing grandparent figures to children without grandparents, and cognitively stimulating the elderly.

Here is what we know that small children bring to the elder community…. such relationships can:
Provide an opportunity for both to learn new skills
Give the child and the older adult a sense of purpose
Help to alleviate fears children may have of the elderly
Help children to understand and later accept their own aging
Invigorate and energize older adults
Help reduce the likelihood of depression in the elderly
Reduce the isolation of older adults
Fill a void for children who do not have grandparents or those who do not live nearby
Help keep family stories and history alive
Aide in cognitive stimulation, as well as broaden social circles should a youth introduce technology into the life of a senior

According to researchers at the University of Florida, relating to older adults can be particularly challenging for adolescents. Adolescents tend to be focused on the present and think mainly about themselves, so they may be less interested in learning about older adults. Teens may display negative behavior that is hard for older adults to understand and adolescents will need guidance and encouragement to help them relate to older adults and understand the implications of aging.

A retiree enjoying some connection with Marlee while she built a tower; Estelle was happy to play with her hair, hold her closer to the table, and support her building skills.
Mingling and listening to Halloween stories, the children are so natural and engaged with the retirees.

Occupational therapy traditionally focuses on three areas of life; productivity (what you do as a role), leisure (what you do for fun), and self care (tasks you do to take care of yourself, such as dressing, eating, etc). Occupational therapists also stress the importance of meaningful activity in rehabilitation to empower the client back into roles that were/are fulfilling for them. Occupational therapists look at the whole person, physically and mentally.

Cross generational learning activities are a beautiful way to build meaningful roles within the context of play. Humans crave connection, belonging and the feeling that their lives have purpose. These cross generational opportunities are infused with play, which is the natural work of children and builds an atmosphere of levity, joy, and meaningful contribution to the lives of all the ages involved. Cross generational activities allow us to reflect on what feeling alive and being fulfilled throughout our lives means to us. Thank you Plugged In, Infinite Resources Inc., Happy Heart Playschool DanceCo Ltd.and St. Albert Retirement Residence for exploring such incredible possibilities.

***Provided by Angela Wallace, board member and Occupational Therapist

Social communication benefits of interactions between seniors and children

The connections and meaningful social engagement created by intergenerational programs for seniors and children bridges the generation gap, offering huge benefits to those involved. By sharing time together, seniors are helping the children learn and grow while the children help stimulate seniors both mentally and physically.

Interacting with people of all ages and abilities is an important aspect of developing life-long social skills for children. Positive interactions with seniors help young children to develop their overall communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and positive attitudes toward the elderly. Intergenerational programs also help to teach vital social skills, such as manners, patience, compassion and empathy, all while having fun! Some research even suggests that children who have on-going contact with older adults demonstrate higher reading abilities, improved verbal and communication skills, and have fewer behavioural problems.

Many seniors participating in intergenerational programs state that the joy of spending time with children is often the highlight of their day. The elderly are natural nurturers who offer unconditional love and acceptance. Children bring positive energy to any room they enter and seniors often thrive off of that energy. Some intergenerational programs report that seniors gain improved self-esteem and a feeling of usefulness within their communities when they are given the opportunity to interact with young children. Many seniors can become quite socially isolated, spending less time talking to others. Regular contact with young children helps keep the seniors’ minds and bodies active and engaged!

***Provided by Susan Kowton board member and Speech-Language Pathologist

A little one wants to sit at this table and is especially sure she needs to sit on her new friends lap.

Activities that Initiate, Build, and Strengthen Intergenerational Relationships

Storytelling: swapping stories is a great activity and can help build a connection.
Learning skills: many older adults have skills or talents that would be interesting for children. Perhaps your child could learn to weave, crochet, fish, bake, or even take care of animals.
Reading to each other.
Planning/preparing a meal (if applicable).
Establishing phone pals: this activity can connect older community members with children who are alone after school.
Talking about ethnic heritage. Sharing ethnic customs, discussing the meaning of a name in native language, or relating to special stories passed down about a culture.
Planting seeds or gardening: this illustrates the stages of the life cycle. A container garden can be created if bending or space are issues.
Weather watching.
Telling jokes.
Discussing hobbies and sharing examples.
Having the child teach the senior a new technology.

Testimonials - Recreation For All Ages