Kendal News and Blog

4 Benefits to Intergenerational LIving

Kendal at Oberlin - Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Older adults and younger generations can all prosper from sharing experiences together. Intergenerational living has become a growing trend across the United States – even in the White House. There are so many good things that may come of intergenerational relationships.

Their retirement living field may market intergenerational living as an innovative new concept, but in reality, it’s not. In fact, it reflects a more natural way to live. Our culture is only now re-discovering the benefits that were once a seamless part of life. Generations have lived in harmony benefitting mutually for all of recorded history.

Variety in age is just one element of the diversity Kendal strives to create. We are fortunate to have multiple avenues by which we are able to enrich the lives of our community members with intergenerational friendships. Through programs like the Kendal Early Learning Center and our effort to employ high school and college students, children and young adults are always engaging with residents resulting in positive benefits to both.

4 Can’t Miss Advantages of Intergenerational Community

Uplifting Spirits

Young children provide a spark of enthusiasm to older adults. Kids have a certain optimism they carry about that rubs off on everyone around them. These relationships are a great way to add joy to your day. A child’s laughter is contagious!

Genuine Friendships

Children are blind to differences in age. A friendship with a child can be truly special. A child will look at a bond with a mature adult the same way he or she does with a peer at grammar school. Regardless of age, one can never have too many great friends!


It’s true that these relationships have been proven to be beneficial for both children and retirement community residents, but it is also clear that the staff gets a boost as well. Think about your time at work. What would witnessing such a warm interaction have done for a dreaded case of “the Mondays”? The benefits become exponential when shared! And many communities with child care and education programs offer priority enrollment to staff.

Providing Some Guidance

Do you ever think of what you could have done with your current pool of knowledge in your teens or 20s? As young adults we can be a bit hesitant to listen to our parents, but a friendship like this may be just what we need to see the light. And it always feels good to give back. Real wisdom and life knowledge cannot be drawn from anywhere else.

Hundreds of these programs have been popping up across the nation for these very good reasons. This natural, comfortable living is positive for everyone involved. Gaining new perspectives and more complete outlooks is a blessing that will last a lifetime.

Intergenerational Programs Benefit Young and Old

Kendal at Oberlin - Tuesday, November 10, 2015
To some in western society, the concept of intergenerational living may seem like a new idea. In truth, though, it’s a timeless idea that is still practiced in many other countries and one that offers many benefits to all parties involved.

Historically, older people have played active roles in the care and teaching of the young. They were the storytellers and teachers in their villages, tribes, and communities. They had lived long lives and had stories to tell that not only delighted young children, but also taught them important lessons about history, survival, courage, and life.

Benefits to Young Children

The times haven’t changed so much that children have nothing to learn from the elders in their communities. In fact, children today stand to gain as much from this contact now as ever before – perhaps even more in a world that’s increasingly connected to the internet and disconnected from the people they spend time with every day.

Children today need to hear stories about the past in order to connect to the world outside of mobile phone, tablet, and portable game screens. Children learn about real life experiences and improve social skills by interacting with older generations.

Benefits to Older Adults

Older adults aren’t only giving in intergenerational environments. They also enjoy quite a few benefits of their own. While it is certainly exciting being part of a vibrant social community in retirement, being around young children also sparks the imagination and energizes the community in a unique way. Their playful approach to friendship makes the people around them feel more youthful and energetic.

Young children are inherently accepting. They are willing to forge friendships with new acquaintances regardless of age and other factors – even excited to do so. And don’t overlook the physical aspects of intergenerational programs; older adults who work with younger children may also enjoy the physical activity that is required. Working with children gives older adults an opportunity to enjoy the time spent together.

Benefit to the Community

From intergenerational programs like Generations United to informal opportunities to explore intergenerational activities (like the programs offered at Kendal at Oberlin) there are many possible benefits for the community as a whole.

There’s a wealth of shared knowledge and engagement among younger children, teens, college students, and older adults. Some of the benefits that result from these experiences are more respectful interactions between the generations and more empathetic people in all age groups who are able to see the world differently.

Diversity is an element that’s instrumental when it comes to keeping life interesting and inviting new opportunities to learn from others. Part of the appeal of intergenerational communities is the fact that there is diversity in age, background, education, and so much more. This provides opportunities for the excitement of the young to bring out the vitality and exuberance of the older ones, while the wisdom of the older adults brings out the thirst for knowledge and the natural curiosity of the young.

Intergenerational Friendships Benefit Everyone

Kendal at Oberlin - Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Written by: Molly Kavanaugh

Two Minnesota residents, 30-plus years apart in age, found common ground on a frozen lake. They have been skating together ever since.

“The benefit of older friends is that they have perspective and knowledge,” says 54-year-old Erik Wardenaar about his skating partner, Penny Jacobs, 88.

Penny adds that, by sharing of herself, “I am giving Erik the benefit of my experiences.”

Ask older adults involved in an intergenerational relationship and they are likely to tell you that it enriches their life, bringing a vibrancy and freshness that is different from friendships with people their own age.  

Three Positive Benefits

1.  The opportunity for a mutual knowledge exchange. You’ve had experiences the younger generation has only read about in their history books. Something as simple as having to use a payphone to call home is a completely foreign concept to today’s children and teenagers. Sharing your firsthand knowledge is a great way to leave a legacy and impart some wisdom. Don’t think your young friends don’t have knowledge of their own to impart! Ask them for help to learn more about social media or see if they know any tricks to get the most from your newest tech device.

2.  The chance to grow your support system. We may experience the loss of family and friends as we get older. Building relationships with younger generations is one of the best ways to combat the feelings of isolation and loneliness that can lead to depression in older adults who have lost people that were close to them.

3.  The ability to improve your overall health. Spending time with children can cause older adults to burn 20 percent more calories per week. Older adults who make the most of intergenerational socializing opportunities are also less likely to experience a fall and tend to perform better on memory tests.

Leaving a Legacy

“Older adults have an opportunity to leave a powerful legacy, to make a difference,” writes Susan V. Bosak, chair of the Legacy Project. “They can send a message into the future through a grandchild or young friend. Relationships across generations can fulfill our desire for immortality.”

These lasting contributions can involve: teaching a skill, such as quilting or wood carving; imparting knowledge, such as a deeper understanding of poetry or music; or sharing wisdom gleaned from experiences of love and failure.

Or the legacy can live on in a community rather than a person. “If we can improve the standing of older adults in society, and nurture what they can bring through intergenerational connections, then we can achieve a better community with a better quality of life for all ages,” Susan writes.

Keep in mind Margaret Mead’s quote:  “Connections between generations are essential for the mental health and stability of the nation.”
How to Make Intergenerational Relationships Happen

Volunteering at a school, library or with a youth group is a wonderful way to spend time with the younger generation.  Just contact the organization or your local United Way for more information about volunteer opportunities.

Join a club or activity or sign up for a class. You might choose something you enjoy doing, like playing chess or sailing, or a skill you want to learn, such as a speaking a foreign language or making jewelry.  Whatever it is, you are likely to be able to interact with people of all ages.

Consider moving to an intergenerational retirement community such as Kendal at Oberlin. Residents have many opportunities to form intergenerational relationships with students of all ages, including children who attend the Early Learning Center, located on the Kendal campus, and students from Oberlin College.

And finally, be bold. Skater Penny Jacobs approached Erik with the idea of skating together. Not only did the two find a beloved activity to share, but have become friends off the ice too. If you’d like to get to know someone, ask them if they’d be interested in meeting for coffee and conversation. You might be pleasantly surprised at their response.

The Importance of Sensory Play

Kendal at Oberlin - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Early childhood educators like to emphasize that young children learn with all their senses. From the time they are born children learn about their world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing and hearing. Which is why it is important to have many sensory experiences available at school and also at home.

  • As children play in the sensory table they are enhancing their sense of touch which in turn leads to developing their fine-motor muscles.
  • Materials that can be put in a sensory table can be rough or smooth, wet or dry, warm or cold, etc. By working with these materials children are learning classification or sorting skills.
  • Math skills are learned by such activities as: comparing who has the biggest pile of sand or how many cups of rice it takes to fill up a container.
  • Problem solving techniques such as how to retrieve a small car stuck in a paper towel tube, or what materials to use to build a ramp from one end of the sensory table to the other are practiced.
  • Language and literacy skills are used constantly as children talk with one another and use descriptive words about what they are doing.
  • Sand and water tables offer many opportunities for creative art and imaginary play, as children pretend to make “cookies”, and wash their babies.

Too often we find reasons why we don’t offer this type of play to our children; such as not enough room or too messy. But with a little imagination, time and tolerance we can overcome these reasons and provide this important type of play to our young children.

In order to protect floors could you use plastic office chair mats? If space is a consideration maybe plastic dish tubs could be filled with your sensory material, then they could be put away when your child is done playing. If having a mess is holding you back, remember having your child help clean up when the playtime is done is an opportunity for creative problem solving. Enlist their ideas on how to clean up the messes.

While we all instantly think of sand and water as the stock materials for sensory tables try to think “out of the box”. Mediums such as dried beans, bird seed, shaving cream, potting soil, snow, dried field corn fallen leaves, and yes, MUD, are just some of the many different sensory items you can use. (But remember the age of the child who will be using the sensory table as some of these may be a choking hazard.)

To keep your sensory table appealing, interesting and to promote different learning experiences don’t forget to vary the add-ins you put in these different mediums. Along with the various tools such as: spoons, cups etc., other ideas could be tweezers, sponges, PVC tubes, turkey basters, alphabet letters, sea shells, egg beaters etc.
But above all, remember, that although sensory play provides an opportunity for our children to engage in active learning, it also provides us another opportunity to play with our children and for us to have an excuse to get a little messy!

The Value of Our Intergenerational Environment

Kendal at Oberlin - Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The Value of our Intergenerational Environment

      Whenever I pass down the hall at Kendal I'm forced to stop and check out the displays by the Day Care Center. Such great photos and pictures of small children having fun with some of our oldest residents here at Kendal at Oberlin. Actually, the photos of these young, cheerful, friendly faces show how these children bring recognition and smiles to folks who often don't have much to smile about. One photo is of a lovely, brilliant woman whose Alzheimer's disease has taken away not only her memory, but also the cheerful friendliness she once had. And in the photo she is reaching out, smiling and being touched by a sweet child who doesn't know her new friend has any limitations. Priceless.
      We Kendal residents are touched in many ways by these lively young ones - when they ride by in their Big Red Stroller and smile and wave, when they join us in the pool for a swim, when they climb on a lap for a story. Many a lonely person gets pulled out of their sadness when the giggles and hollers and chatter of the children fills their attention and replaces their self absorption.
      Kendal's intergenerational environment helps ensure Kendal is a Special Place for us all.

Anne Elder
Chairman of Program Committee

What are your favorite memories of childhood play?

Kendal at Oberlin - Thursday, April 14, 2011

If I think about most of those memories happened outdoors and included a lot of nature-based play. For instance:

  • digging holes “to China";
  • catching fireflies and frogs;
  • exploring little creeks and ponds;
  • building stick forts or tree houses;
  • daydreaming in your secret spot; or
  • Just “mucking around” in the woods.

Do your own children play that way?

Chances are they don’t. Childhood has changed. American kids now spend 27% of their time with electronic media. How much of their time do they spend outside? One percent, on average, and that includes highly structured, adult-led activities like soccer and baseball leagues.

“Unstructured” outdoor play free play amounts to only about 30 minutes per week for each of our children. That’s barely four minutes per day. Yet American two-year-olds average 2.6 hours of television per day.

Today, children’s access to green play spaces is often limited or dangerous

Kids’ free time dropped by 38% between 1979 and 1999. Parental fears have been magnified by “24/7” media coverage, whether it is sunburn, bee stings, or crime. Parents can not ignore the steady flow of worrisome news.

The big villain is plugged-in play, (i.e. cable television, digital music devices, computers, and video games). They have been the major factor in the disappearance of outdoor play.

As a result, childhood has changed dramatically and we don’t even have a hypothesis about what the long-term impacts will be!

Only recently have we begun to grasp the powerful and positive impacts nature and outdoor experiences have on children’s healthy growth and development.

Regular habits of active play during childhood are one of the best predictors of active adulthoods, a perfect prescription for combating the obesity epidemic. One in five four-year-olds in the U.S. is clinically obese. School children who use playgrounds with trees, fields, shrubs, and vegetated edges show more creative play, better concentration, and more inter-gender play than peers with equipment-focused playgrounds. Outdoor play in green settings reduces the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

According to the “hygiene hypothesis,” early exposure to plants, animals, and soil helps children’s immune systems to develop properly, making them less vulnerable to allergenic conditions like asthma and peanut allergies. Frequent, unstructured childhood play in natural settings has been found to be the most common influence on the development of life-long conservation values.

The virtual extinction of nature play is an unprecedented mutation of human childhood. We have unintentionally removed a life force that has been at the center of children’s physical, social, emotional, creative, and intellectual development throughout the history of humankind.

Parents are you confident that nature play has been replaced in your children’s lives by equally valuable and positive influences? If your answer is no, then start making those experiences for your little ones. Grow things as a family, make place for sand/dirt and water play in your yard, dig in the dirt or creatures, visit the metro parks, (not just the play ground) plan a time each day for a walk to discover one new thing in your neighborhood, and then take the time to learn about it – the really positive aspect of the tools of technology.)

Most of all build those memories and relationships with nature’s free equipment right outside your door.

The daffodils are blooming and the robins are singing, and just where are they at your house?

(Information and statistics from Green Hearts Inc.)

Intergenerational Tai Chi

Kendal at Oberlin - Friday, April 01, 2011

Because Tai Chi works on the inside of the body it helps to relieve the sense of inner turmoil so many of us feel. It can alleviate stomachaches, nervousness, fear, anger and frustration.

Tai Chi slows us down so we can think and feel. It is not complicated. It doesn't have to be done exactly right. There is no competition. No race to be first. No need to be best. The important thing is to relax, feel the energy and find a feeling of peace. As we slow down, the internal energy can flow to all parts of the body. The visualization is peaceful. There is a nice warm feeling inside.

Kids are the embodiment of change, and change can be very stressful. Their minds and bodies grow at phenomenal rates, so they are constantly having to work with new and different bodies, making coordination and balance a big issue. Tai Chi, with its emphasis on balance, is well suited to address all these challenges.

Tai Chi works to integrate the mind and body, skeletal and muscular systems, and left brain and right brain. In physical terms, this centering is built around an awareness of moving with good posture and from a low center of gravity, or the vertical axis.

So what does all of this mean for your child? Well, in this instance, your child will be part of a unique intergenerational experience where we are trying to blend the energies of the young child with the energies of mature adults. The calm, grounded nature of mature adults blended with the energetic, curious nature of children should produce an interesting Tai Chi experience for all.

Everyone will be learning eight easy exercises that we will repeat. These exercises are called the Eight Pieces of the Silken Brocade. I have modified them so that people in wheelchairs can do them easily. The children will learn the feet/body movements of the standing version. Most of all, this is a time for your child and for the residents to enjoy some time together in a meaningful way; using movement as the common factor.