Kids and the elderly can make a positive match.

How to Teach Kids to Interact With the Elderly

by Kathryn Hatter

Encouraging empathy and kindness toward others helps build an outgoing attitude of love and concern in children. Although it’s important to teach these attitudes toward peers, the lessons reach further than just with people in your child’s own age group. By teaching children positive interaction with elderly, you make it possible for your youngsters to enjoy visiting with people in all age groups. Whether your kids spend time with their own grandparents or other special elderly friends, these chats can be pleasurable for everyone.

1 Talk with your kids about some common issues that elderly people experience so they understand these limitations. For example, many elderly people have trouble hearing and probably wear hearing aids. Some elderly people have short-term memory issues and might have trouble remembering names or recent events. Sometimes, an older person feels unhappy or grumpy due to physical discomforts, medication and pain.

2 Explain to your child that elderly people often feel sad and lonely, and young people can help brighten up a day and make it more cheerful. Tell your kids that elderly people might enjoy spending time with them because they have happy energy and lots of love to share with others. Explain that your kids might help elderly people feel happier just with a short visit and a little conversation.

3 Visit an elderly neighbor or a nursing home with your kids and let them watch you interact with the older people so you can teach by your example. Speak in an elevated, friendly voice. Smile and laugh, tell jokes and engage them in conversation. Your modeling of comfortable and friendly interactions can help your child see what’s involved with interacting with elderly people.

4 Ask your children about how they felt during and after visiting with the elderly folks. If they felt shy or afraid, reassure them that you will always be there to help and keep visits positive. Tell your kids that you enjoyed taking them to visit with you and that you hope you can do it again soon.

5 Encourage your kids to visit with elderly people, also. Make regular trips to a nursing home or retirement center. If you have elderly neighbors, stay connected with them so everyone can have an opportunity to visit. Provide ongoing support as your kids become more comfortable with the interactions. At first, the youngsters might need lots of encouragement and prompts from you to have a personable conversation. With practice, however, it’s likely that your kids will become more comfortable interacting with elderly friends.

6 Suggest activities that your children can participate in with their elderly friends, advises AgingCare.com. Putting puzzles together, reading books, singing songs, telling stories, looking at old photo albums, playing cards, and sitting outside together are just a few things that kids and elderly friends might do together.

7 Tell your children how proud you are that they are trying to share happiness by visiting and interacting with the elderly. Help your kids see that they are making an important impact on other people’s lives.

Warning

  • Warn your kids that the elderly, just like anybody, sometimes have difficult days when they don't feel like visiting. If you encounter an elderly person who doesn't feel friendly, help your child wish him well. Your child might try again another time, or you could find another elderly person for your kid to visit.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images