On Easter Sunday afternoon, my husband and I took our 17 month-old grandson to visit an 83 year-old man who was widowed not long ago. The older man had wanted to see our grandson ride an antique riding horse that he had offered our son and daughter-in-law. So we loaded the horse in the trunk of the car and made our way to the older man’s tree-shaded home.
We set the horse in the middle of the room and helped our grandson climb on. It was pure joy to watch the older man eye the toddler as he bounced up and down on the family heirloom. The room began to fill with laughter and hoots-and-hollers. A short time later, we moved outside to the wide porch where another child joined the fun, blowing bubbles and playing with wind-up bunnies.
I kept watching the smiling face of the older man and thought about another time when my grandson was just learning to walk. I had taken him to visit a 95 year-old friend. I’ll never forget how she laughed as he tried to push her walker across the room. He gave her a high-five and crawled onto her lap. Months later she was still talking about that special visit.
It made me think about how young people bring fresh air to older folks whose lives are vulnerable to becoming stale. Somehow a child’s boundless energy breathes new life into old. (One word of caution: Too many children at one time or children running wild will have an opposite effect!)
As we approach Older Americans Month in May, I encourage parents and grandparents to take children to visit aging relatives and friends, especially those who are homebound. Think about how older adults might interact with the children, perhaps reading them a book or playing an impromptu game. Building relationships that span the generations will not happen without intentional effort, but in God’s scheme of things, they promise to bring new life.