By: Dr. Jenn Ripepi, The Choosy Pediatrician
Recently my husband and I were doing a bit of geneology research. We were lucky enough to see a microfilm copy of the ship manifest listing his paternal grandfather's arrival to the United States. We were awed that this 18 year-old man had traveled across the world with $16 in his pocket. But we also had many questions as my husband was very young when his grandfather passed away. He feels as if he has missed something from his past by not knowing his grandfather.
There are many changes in our society over the recent generations. Many families used to live in multigenerational households or had family homesteads with multiple family homes close by. Marriages were generally with someone local as transportation was quite different. Even my husband's paternal grandfather married a girl from his hometown who came to America soon after he did. Now our families may be spread across the globe, move frequently and blend and meld in many unique ways. Some households are still multigenerational with with grandparents primarily responsible for childcare.
There are still many families without older adult generations nearby. Those children may be missing out on valuable lessons about times gone by or general life lessons if they do not have a "substitute" grandparent available. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to have a kind senior citizen to sit with and talk about their past can appreciate how quickly some of life has changed but how some has stayed the same. The details may change but the basic situations have not.
Children who visit senior residence facilities or nursing homes can learn about the importance of caring for our older generations. Seeing the faces of those residents when children sing or laugh is precious. Those who may have poor health or memories do truly become a bit brighter when the children are around.
Many older people move at a similar pace to toddlers. They may enjoy the meandering nature of a walk in the park with frequent stops for inspection of bugs, leaves and rocks just like many children. Looking at the world through the eyes of a child may help to spark memories and stories of their own childhood when much time was spent outside. Just watching children play is often enjoyable for grandparents.
Many senior family or community members have skills to pass on that may becoming lost arts. They are often happy to share these lessons as they may have more time than busy parents. Teaching children a special family recipe, woodworking or crafts may be part of the legacy they would like to share. Some of these skills may not be written anywhere and the intergenerational passage of knowledge is priceless. Communication like this and the passing on of skills and interests is becoming a lost art.
There is nothing like the memories that can be reinforced with time together. Grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, or "substitutes" generally enjoy the time that they can foster those memories with young people and pass along what they have learned over the years. Perhaps your children are fortunate enough to know their grandparents or great grandparents. If not, then maybe they can have a chance to spend time with older adults in a senior center, church group or by visiting an elderly neighbor with you. You never know what you may learn as well!
About the Author: Dr. Jennifer Ripepi practiced general Pediatrics for nearly 30 years until retiring in 2016. She and her husband continue to be inspired by their four young adult children. Dr. Ripepi enjoys growing, cooking and eating organic foods to keep her fueled for exploring outdoors. She loves s sharing experience about topics related to health and wellness for children and families.