Back in the summer, one afternoon when I picked my daughter Livi up from the holiday club, she was inexplicably dressed as a clown and very excited because she and a group of other four to six-year-olds had been to the local maison de retraite (old people’s home) to perform a little show.
In an ideal world, we like to imagine that all older people have a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren to visit them but sadly, this isn’t always the case.
Similarly, not all children have living grandparents and still more don’t see them regularly for one reason or another, distance, estrangement or simply lack of time.
It’s fun you know
Bringing older people and children together can be fun and beneficial for both generations, says Gillian Shepherd-Coates, chief officer at Age Concern, Sevenoaks.
She added: “We often have children come in from the local schools – often they’ll perform some kind of show or they may put on a presentation based around a history project and then chat to our members about how things were when they were young.”
Because of safety issues, it is difficult to find formal volunteering opportunities for primary school-aged children. Try suggesting that your child’s school, Brownie group or church contact your nearest branch of Age UK or local residential home to see how the children may be able to help out there – chances are they will welcome it.
It may be that you know an older person locally who might welcome some company. Perhaps you could suggest you visit together to play a board game or simply have a cup of tea and chat.
Of course, some people prefer their own company so don’t be offended if your offer is refused – but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
Don’t allow your child to go alone unless they are visiting someone you know very well and trust completely to be in charge of your child. If they are very frail or ill, you should always go along too.
It is a useful lesson for children to learn that it is not only people of their own age who can be good company and who knows? Your child might make a new friend.