Advice Assisted Living

How Can We Promote Relationships Between Seniors and Their Grandchildren?

Grandson whispering in grandfather's ear

Dear Benchmark,

As the coordinator of activities for a large, non-denominational church, I am always looking for ways to bring several generations together. Some of our most active church members are older adults. Many of them have mentioned how much they struggle to connect to their grandchildren.

What we hear is that, even though many of them don’t live far away from the youngest generation of their family, they have difficulty getting them to put down their cell phones and electronic devices and talk.

Do you have any suggestions on activities we could host to bridge the generations?

Any advice would be much appreciated!


Easy Intergenerational Activities

Dear Devin,

Those darn cell phones and electronics are tough to compete with, aren’t they? Most of us are so accustomed to seeing children of all ages with their heads down typing, we hardly even notice it anymore. But electronic devices can seriously infringe on the time families spend together.

Hosting activities to which grandparents can bring their grandchildren sounds like a great idea! We routinely host intergenerational activities at Benchmark Senior Living communities, and they are always popular. What often helps unite these two generations are shared hobbies and interests. And a project they can complete together. Here are a few ideas that you might consider:

Container Garden: This one could be fun all year-round, but especially during summer months. Gardening is an activity that nourishes the body, mind and spirit. Helping the younger generation connect with nature might also be a way to get them to put down their electronics. You could even go with a theme, such as container vegetable gardens, miniature gardens or a potted herb garden. Then the two generations can share responsibility for keeping the garden alive!
Art Project: Another type of activity offering therapeutic value while encouraging bonding is art projects. And they don’t have to be overly complex. While a multi-part watercolor or acrylic painting series might give the two generations more time to spend together, it may not be feasible. You could opt for simpler classes much like the popular one-night painting classes offered to groups at restaurants and libraries.
Family Tree: Because grandparents are often family historians, it might be fun for the two generations to work together to create a family tree. This will give the grandparent an opportunity to share some of the family’s history and genealogy. The senior family member can tell stories about their own parents and grandparents. Your family tree might be something as easy as a tree drawn on poster board with a leaf for each family member or a more detailed scrapbook or family biography.
Video Interviews: Since the grandkids are likely tech-savvy, it might be fun for the two generations to create their own video. You could develop a list of questions for each group to ask the other “interview style.” The questions and answers could be recorded using a cell phone. Not only is it a way for the two groups to get to know one another a little more, but the video will be a nice keepsake for the entire family.
Old-fashioned Card/Board Games: For a younger generation unaccustomed to playing non-electronic games, old-fashioned board games might be a fun change. You could have games for all age groups on hand, such as Candyland, Clue, Monopoly, Old Maid and Operation.

One final tip might be to ban the use of cell phones for both generations during your activities, unless they are a part of the project. That will make it easier to keep everyone engaged with one another.

Assisted Living, Independent Living, Mind & Memory Care
Understanding Options