More and more research agrees on the value of intergenerational relationships – for all generations. It’s found that both young and old benefit greatly from spending time with one another. Erik Erikson was one of the first psychologists to describe social development across the lifespan and he saw that during the stage that begins at about 60, people seek to find meaning in their lives and make sense of the lives they have lived and that younger generations in more formative stages of their lives benefit from that experience. Shared experiences among the different generations provide opportunities for all to use new skills as well as alleviate misconceptions about each other.
It has also been found that connecting the generations is a positive, not only on an individual level, but for our society as a whole. Gaining a better understanding of each group can help enhance the vibrancy and wisdom of the other.
Willow Valley Communities embraces this research with our Camp Willow Day Camp. The day camp engages visiting grandchildren and its residents with a true intergenerational summer experience. Children ages 7 – 12 years old, come from across the United States to stay with their grandparents and then have a full day at Camp Willow. The Camp offers children a week of activities like fishing, woodworking, photography, crafts, song writing, swimming, games and trips with and without their grandparents.
Adding to the intergenerational mix, Willow Valley Team Members and residents help run camp activities along with local professionals and entertainers for the children. (Willow Valley offers approximately 100 clubs covering a wide variety of interests or their residents and members of these clubs help provide sessions for campers and their grandparents.)
Jen Rynier, Events Coordinator for the Willow Valley Retirement Communities who with her staff organizes Camp Willow said, “Willow Valley Residents come from 37 states and have family from all over the country. To give them the opportunity to have their grandchildren visit and have a fun filled week is priceless. Yes, we know from research how vital intergenerational relationships are for seniors and their grandchildren for their physical and emotional health, but all we have to do is see the smiles on everyone’s faces!”
The idea for the camp came from a resident who struggled with keeping her own young grandchildren occupied during their summer visits. She wanted to spend fun, interactive time with them, but also wanted some down time. Camp Willow seems to have met that goal perfectly, because according to one grandparent, after his grandchildren had a full day at camp, “All three were in bed and asleep in about five minutes!”