Why Are There Kids Here?

Posted November 15, 2018

by Amy Lemieux

As part of our community, it is likely that All Seasons parents intuitively know in their hearts what many do not; for a young child, being in a space full of grandmas and grandpas can be a great asset. But it is a legitimate question and one that is asked frequently. Why did we put young children inside a building full of retired people?
Conversely, the same can be said about the senior citizen side of the pairing. The presence of young children can be a treasure to seniors. Mary Pipher, clinical psychologist and cultural anthropologist, studied the social and emotional diseases of aging in the United States; diseases of the mind and heart, not the body. We live in a society that values independence and self-sufficiency. What happens in a dependent-phobic culture if you are an adult who needs help meeting their most basic needs like grocery shopping, preparing a meal or even going to the bathroom? You feel ashamed, you isolate yourself and become lonely and depressed.
Mother Teresa said, “The greatest disease in the west today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for. Western medicine can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the west is a different kind of poverty. It is a poverty of loneliness.”
In “Another Country; Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders,” Mary Pipher asked, “Under what conditions do children, families and communities thrive?” The answer? We all thrive in an authentic community. What do both groups, the very young and the very old, crave more than anything? They crave time, attention, and to know that they matter. The beauty of intergenerational pairing is that the young and the old provide for each other what both groups need, and they are a perfect fit!

Aside from needing time and attention, what do the very young and the very old have in common? So much! Both groups:
• Live in the moment
• Have short attention spans
• Benefit from predictability and routine
• Find satisfaction in successfully completing simple tasks
• Experience joy simply from being together – the activity is secondary
• Have limited agility and coordination
• Love music
• Benefit from physical contact
• Have a limited social filter
• Experience frustration with multiple step directions
• Are egocentric – their own needs are paramount

With these similarities, we see in great and small, but most importantly, personal ways, the benefits of relationships that develop between the young and old. We see benefits for real people, many of them planned and expected, but many surprising and unexpected.

So why are there kids here?

For the young:
“Communities are real places with particular landscapes, sounds, and smells. Particular people live there and everyone knows their names. Children need to grow up surrounded by adults who care for them.” – Mary Pipher

For the old:
“You can have a nursing home that strives for the absence of pain but that isn’t enough. There needs to be the presence of joy. One of the greatest gifts the children bring is simply their unpredictability for those whose lives have become so predictable.” – Don Greener