Because aging is a lifelong process, learning and talking about it is an important activity for all ages. As a grandparent or older adult volunteer, you can engage children and youth in fun but informative intergenerational activities that can teach them:
- changes associated with the maturing process and how to age well
- connections between young and old
- contributions of older adults now and throughout history
- roles and treatment of older people in society
The possibilities for intergenerational connections on aging are limitless. With the support of the Verizon Foundation and resources on Thinkfinity.org, this guide provides brief activity descriptions geared toward a broad range of ages. We encourage you to submit additional suggestions and to connect with other older adults in an online user group for grandparents and volunteers with similar interests.
Pre-k to Grade Three: Provide Positive Role Models and Introduce Aging Concepts
Preschoolers and children in the early grades express a remarkable curiosity about the world around them. Two everyday activities can help grandparents and volunteers provide young children with positive images of aging and begin to introduce aging concepts: reading stories together and answering “why questions.”
Educators know how important it is to read to children during the earliest years. Unfortunately, older characters are often underrepresented or stereotyped negatively in early children’s literature. The following books feature multicultural characters that portray older adults and aging in a positive way for young children:
- Abuela by Arthur Dorros
- Bigmama’s by Donald Crews
- The Hello, Goodbye Window by Nornton Juster and Chris Raschka
- Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, et al
- Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
- Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patrricia Polacco
- Our Granny by Margaret Wild and Julie Vivas
- The Raft by Jim Lamarche
- Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman and Stephen Gammell
- Walk with Grandpa: Un paseo con el abuelo by Sharon Solomon
- Verdi by Janell Cannon
As anyone who spends time with young children knows, they also enjoy asking lots of “why” questions. You can use these questions as an opportunity to talk about changes associated with aging and how children can age well. On Thinkfinity.org, Wonderopolis provides answers and activity suggestions to questions like why does hair turn gray, what are wisdom teeth, and can the fountain of youth make you younger? Through your answers, you can help convey that aging is a natural and lifelong process of growing and developing.
Grades Four to Eight: Explore Scientific Approaches to Aging and Its Social Implications
One key objective of education is to prepare children for what lies ahead. Today’s students will not only grow up in an aging world, but many may also live to their eighties, nineties, and beyond themselves.
Grandparents and volunteers can explore with middle school children in fun ways how scientists study aging. Thinkfinity lesson plans feature a Boston Museum of Science exhibit on the secrets of aging that features interactive aging activities geared towards students.
- Compete to see who can arrange 10 species with various lifespans from shortest to longest longevity
- Explore the different types of studies scientists use to learn more about the aging process
- Test your fluid intelligence (adaptability often associated with young) versus your crystallized intelligence (knowledge gained from experience)
- Visit the museum’s “age-defying” store to find out scientific facts versus hype on a number of popular products claiming to defy aging
Once more familiar with the scientific process of aging, middle school children can learn about older adult contributions to society and the social implications of living in an aging society.
- Learn about famous elders and how they feel about aging
- Watch a future forecast video
- Try your luck at aging poker to see how much or little you know about aging in America
Additional Web Resources:
Aging Across the Curriculum
Macklin Institute Extreme Aging Training
The National Academy for Thinking and Learning about Aging
Walk in My Shoes
Additional Print Resources:
Friedman, Barbara M. (1999). Connecting Generations: Integrating Aging Education and. Intergenerational Programs with Elementary and Middle Schools