It’s no secret that children and seniors get along very well and bring joy to each other’s lives. But did you know that for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s, interacting with children can provide more than just enjoyment? The opportunity to interact with children can meaningfully improve the lives of memory care residents. That’s why Stone Valley Assisted Living and Memory Care in Reno, Nevada, makes intergenerational interaction a regular part of their specialized memory care programming.
Scientific studies about the benefits of intergenerational interaction—when seniors are routinely able to interact with children—are limited. But the research that has been done hints that regular connection with children can meaningfully improve the quality of life of seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Studies suggest that people living with dementia were more engaged and had a higher level of positive engagement when interacting with children.
According to a report published by the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom, one of the key quality of life indicators for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s is their ability to participate in meaningful activities. Such activities can often include teaching a child to do something that the person once did as part of an occupation or hobby. For example, someone who was a homemaker for many years might enjoy teaching a young guest how to fold towels or how to organize objects by season or color. Someone who was a mechanic may light up at the opportunity to teach a child about antique cars or engines. And someone who enjoys gardening may want a child’s help sorting seeds, identifying seedlings, or organizing gardening tools. Both the participation in meaningful activity and the opportunity to teach it to someone else foster cognitive health.
Regular social interaction with people of any age is important for improving the quality of life for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s. In fact, Stone Valley prioritizes social connection as part of their Memory Care Life Enrichment program. People with dementia or Alzheimer’s are at risk of isolation due to previous failure and possible embarrassment in social interactions. To support residents, Stone Valley offers activities in both large and small group settings, with children, peers, and adults of all ages, that encourage “failure-free” opportunities for socialization. These activities allow residents to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.
And when children are present as part of these activities, the benefits to residents only increase. Residents enjoy activities that both they and the children can excel at, including painting and reading stories. And the children’s high energy and positivity certainly flows to the residents. The children benefit from their visits, too; Children who interact with older adults show reduced behavioral challenges and better social skills.
Because of the positive effect the presence of children has on residents, Stone Valley ensures that residents have the opportunity to engage with children as regularly as possible. The caring staff provides a safe, comfortable space for everyone to enjoy each other’s company, without worries about safety or security. This intergenerational engagement combines with the remainder of Stone Valley’s memory care programming, which includes physical activity, spiritual support, intellectual discovery, sensory stimulation, and emotional expression. Residents enjoy music therapy, aromatherapy, validation techniques, organized exercise classes, and life skills stations as part of the program. This research-backed programming ensures a strong community bond, fosters residents’ independence and supports their cognitive and physical health.
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