If you were born in 1953 and your grandchild was born in 2006, how do your two worlds differ?

In 1953 only half of all American homes had a television and the vast majority of those were black and white sets. To watch a new movie you went to a movie theatre. There were no answering machines on your rotary-dial phones and only Dick Tracy had a two-way wristwatch radio.

By contrast, your grandchild is hyper-connected to multiple sources of instant information. He or she can access almost any film online through apps and streaming services and download them to smartphones or tablets. And phones can provide a host of resources and services including messaging and information services, GPS capability, as well as the ability to take photos and make videos, and play online games. These devices command a staggering (and sometimes frustrating) amount of attention from their young owners.

So what kinds of activities would be good for you and your grandchild to do together, since the worlds you have experienced have been so different?

Try Something New

According to Tara Burrow, Life Enrichment Coordinator at Bethesda Hawthorne Place, an assisted living and memory care community in St. Louis, MO, there are many ways the generations can connect. Some of them do include technology that might be new to a senior adult: “You can play games on an iPad and explore fun apps like Snapchat,” she says. If that sounds a little intimidating, it’s something your grandchild would probably love to teach you.

Snapchat lets people send images, messages, photos, and video. “Many seniors get a kick out of the funny faces they can make,” Tara says. “This is a great way to have a laugh with your grandkids.”

Or Do Something More Traditional

Depending on the age and interests of your grandchildren, there are many activities to explore. Tara also suggests the board game Don’t Make Me Laugh or classic games like Candyland and Kerplunk. “This is a good way to relive old memories and make new ones with the grandkids,” she says.

Scavenger hunts inside the home or in the community can be fun, or you might try teaching your grandchildren about gardening. Even something as simple as reading together and going to the library to pick out a book are great activities. “One of the best memories I have as a child is my grandmother reading me bedtime stories from books she used to read for my mother,” Tara says.

Other activities to do together:

  • Listen to music (yours and theirs)
  • Review a photo album
  • Go to a movie
  • Attend a sports event
  • Visit a zoo, art museum, or science center
  • Play a video game
  • Learn a new hobby
  • Complete a jigsaw puzzle
  • Celebrate holidays
  • Eat at a restaurant
  • Take a class
  • Cook and share recipes

Benefits of Spending Time and Doing Activities with Your Grandchildren

Studies show that interaction between grandparents and grandchildren protects both of them from depression. Grandparents play a meaningful role as teachers and as a source of emotional acceptance for their grandchildren. The child’s self-esteem is raised, social skills are gained, and they learn respect and admiration for an older generation. And studies also show that without emotional involvement with others, seniors tend to decline more quickly both physically and cognitively.

You and your grandchildren aren’t from two different worlds. You are from different eras but you share something that is timeless—the need for the companionship, love, and acceptance of a caring family.

Sunday, September 8, is National Grandparents Day, but celebrate your role as a grandparent with your grandchildren every chance you get.

For more senior-friendly activities and ideas, visit our blog.