Did you know there is a physiological response when we look at youth? It’s not just our brains going to mush when we start making googly noises at babies. According to Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatric specialist, our hearts actually beat faster when looking at a young, vibrant person.
I’ve noticed how older adults brighten up when they see a kid. Some people I know just stand back and observe the youthfulness, while others engage in conversations and activities with the children. It is priceless watching the interaction.
Three years ago, Eskaton Village Grass Valley launched Kids Connection, a program Eskaton first piloted in 2009 to bring generations together. Kids Connection was developed to help our residents interact more, gain a sense of purpose, share life skills and learn new skills, such as using computers. The students also benefit with improved academic performance and enhanced compassion and respect for older adults and the aging process.
Each month during the school year, Scotten School children in grades first and fourth interact with Eskaton Village Grass Valley residents. The kids come to the Village for holidays like Halloween, Christmas and Easter. The residents travel to the school on alternating months and take hand-decorated cookies for the kids to enjoy.
Resident Irene Benton has been to every Kids Connection visit since it launched. Each school year she is partnered with a student buddy. They talk, read and color. “I give the teachers a lot of credit,” says Benton. “The children are delightful to be around.”
Eunice Waddell points out the cooperation skills of 1st and 4th graders. “It shows they care about one another and we get to be part of that,” says Waddell.
“It’s good to have young people around for a change,” says Dorothy Peterson. “I think they need to learn what it’s like when people get old.”
Everyone involved agrees that Kids Connection brings value. The residents look forward to the visits, the kids light up with excitement, and even the staff gets enthusiastic. This is why the California Assisted Living Association recently recognized Eskaton as the winner of its Innovations in Quality award. Eskaton has brought over 650 children to 23 communities and enriched the lives of residents living in independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care.
The program has so many benefits, but one parent put it best, “I am so happy my child is able to participate. He doesn’t have any grandparents close by, so his buddy is like a grandpa to him.”
The next time you get all giddy and start to make funny noises around little kids, remember looking at the young invigorates you and makes your heart beat a little faster.
Kids Connection is paid for by donations raised through Eskaton Foundation. To become a sponsor or volunteer, visit eskaton.org/give.