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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 6:48 am | Fog/Mist 43º


Rona Barrett: When Harry Met Max — Intergenerational Programming Connects Young and Old

“A very interesting thing happened today,” my girlfriend told me in a conversation a few years ago.

Her son Max had come home from school excitedly and exclaimed, “Ma, I had a fun time today. We went to see the old people. I talked to an old man. He asked me all kinds of questions. Who am I? What do I want to be when I grow up? And then he told me stories about himself. He was very funny and nice!”

My friend delightedly asked him, “What was the man’s name?” Max answered, “He only had one name: Harry.” Surprised, my friend asked, “Were you talking to Rona’s dad, Harry?” Max shrugged answering, “I don’t know.”

Sure enough, when I asked my dad, “What did you do at the senior center today, Daddy?” He enthused, “Oh, they had some kids in from the school next door, and there was a nice boy who came over to talk to me and we had a wonderful time together!”

I quizzed him, “Do you know who you were talking to? I think it was Lindy’s son, Max.” He shrugged answering, “Max, Shmax, I can’t even remember my own name.”

My dad was just being his irascible self, but I knew he was happy to have encountered someone he enjoyed being with. It didn’t matter if Max was 4 or 84. It was fun — for both of them.

What the good folks at the adult day center were doing when my dad was there is called today “intergenerational programming” or “intergenerational shared sites.” I love the concept of adult care programs that purposefully and meaningfully combine child-care program activities that give everyone involved the benefit of sharing their experiences, talents and skills — while having fun doing it!

Intergenerational care activities allow children and seniors the opportunity to appreciate what the other has to offer, especially when the child doesn’t have the advantage of grandparents nearby and the senior’s grandchildren live too far away to interact even occasionally.

Turns out, everything the developing young child needs with regard to their physical, social, emotional, psychological and intellectual growth is almost exactly what aging seniors need to improve and maintain their cognitive functions: memory, focus, thought speed and clarity.

This concept actually started in 1963 as a part of the “War on Poverty.” The first program was called the “Foster Grandparent Program.” Today, the 100-member Generations United — a national membership organization of agencies that focus on improving the lives of youth and elders through intergenerational strategies, programs and public policy — has a map on its website that shows more than 1,000 such programs across the country.

I’m looking forward to the Golden Inn & Village providing these much-needed programs. After all, our parents did this all the time. They didn’t have fancy names for it; they just knew how important it was to take care of each other — whether they were caring for 4-year-olds or 84- year-olds!

Until next time ... keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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