We have been regularly visiting our elderly friends for about four years, our meet ups happily increasing in regularity as time has gone on. This week, for the first time, we hosted our friends at Annan with singing, music, food and plenty of time for play and interaction.
As an old hand and a young hand met over the wooden blocks I was struck by the contrast. One hand lined, weathered; the other smooth and tiny. This is humanity summed up in one image; connection, patience, understanding. The older hand modelling how to balance blocks, holding experience gained through decades, wisdom which can so often be overlooked once we pass a certain age.
Froebel wrote passionately about unity; a harmonious relationship between home, school and society. Intergenerational connection brings together ages from two to one hundred and two. Children absorb valuable impressions of respect and connectedness between their parent volunteers, teachers and elderly guests.
We have heard such stories – one lady teaching us the waltz, telling us she learnt the steps when out dancing aged fourteen. There is so much worth hearing. Stories and memories such as these may hopefully be passed on by our little children, continuing a legacy into the next generation.
Somewhere in life, between being very young and much older, there is a tendency to become inhibited. There is so much to learn from watching the youngest and oldest connect, furthest apart in age yet closest in terms of their life’s rhythm. Without the agenda of rushing about ‘doing’, there is greater focus on ‘being’ in the moment. Dancing, playing, singing – being who you are without self-consciousness. We have witnessed over and over the way song has the power to conjure memories, eyes lighting up as moments of life are recalled. It is the ‘classics’ the children are most enthusiastic about, there really is something in singing ‘Daisy, Daisy’ as a two year old and having a room full of people wholeheartedly join you in a rousing chorus!
Seeing children and adults recognise each other and link up over several visits is wonderful to witness. On one visit we noticed an older lady helping a young child to sew, taking on a certain amount of responsibility. The next visit saw the child take this lady by the hand, carefully leading her to the dance floor aware that she was not completely steady on her feet. This is the reciprocal nature of friendship in action.
The impact on mood and wellbeing is immediate and felt by everyone involved in the intergenerational visits. As a teacher it is an utter privilege to be a part of such a special community, weaving our intergenerational connections into the social fabric and life of the school. Thank you so much to our older friends for these joyful shared times.