First published in ACCESS Autumn 2017 magazine
Young students and their elders share the joy
Kindergarten and preschool children from the German International School The Hague are reaching out to a neighbouring home for senior citizens. The visits have become a welcome activity among the residents, who look forward to their young guests filled with innocence and laughter and who bring refreshing variety into their daily routine.
Typically, 15 children and two teachers set out on foot, where they are greeted by a group of seniors and volunteers. While some of the residents are in wheelchairs, others are mobile and active. While some suffer from the onset of dementia, others show hardly signs of old age. Children observe and interact with the aged. Young children growing up in expat families often miss out on regular contact with grandparents. Thanks to the visits, the children observe how we change with age and learn to accept and respect the elderly.
Organised activities are always part of the agenda. Contact between the children and the residents has many forms, such as ball and parachute games. They work on arts and crafts projects together at tables, colouring and painting or creating seasonal accessories like Easter baskets or Christmas decorations. All of the art objects made during the visits are left as gifts for the residents.
Music helps bring young and old together. The children prepare songs with their teachers to sing to the elderly, often learning classic Dutch favourites or typical holiday tunes that bring back memories for the senior citizens. The singing is accompanied by a teacher with a guitar and the seniors clap and move to the music in their seats, delighted by the entertainment prepared especially for them.
The two groups have a good time simply chatting with each other. The elderly love to hear about the different countries in which the children have lived and share their own stories and adventures. The children often speak Dutch to the elderly and the seniors appreciate the chance to practise their own (sometimes rusty) language skills. Be it in German, English, Spanish, or a multitude of other languages, the interaction between young and old brings joy to both groups and helps broaden the experience and understanding between the generations bridging the circle of life.