In a world where family is atomized in small nuclear units, with parents and their adult children who often live thousands of miles apart, the pairing of older people with younger ones starts. There is a nursing home in the Netherlands that offers free accommodation to university students who agree to communicate with their elderly. The Easthampton, Massachussett-based Treehouse Foundation, which has redesigned the foster care system in terms of a village-wide paradigm, invites seniors to volunteer as surrogate grandparents.
Meet Bubbie Debbie
I am not a grandparent, but I am – to use a word Yiddish here – a Bubbie. Every Wednesday morning I am Bubbie Debbie for about an hour, picture book reader and general help for a cute three year old class in my local synagogue.
I knew this volunteer performance would be fun and fun fill a gap in my life. I don't interact with children on a daily basis. I was not prepared for it to be profound. But my first day, when I read a picture book about art, one of the children raised her hand and repeated a x anabolic word I had just read.
"Inspiration?" she asked.
"Inspiration," I repeated, realizing it was me ̵
The Reading Bubbies program at Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, NJ was the inspiration of Debbie Kravitz, herself a preschool teacher and a volunteer recruiter for the temple. She had never heard of a program like this before, but she knew that childcare and adult childcare were combined in experiments across the country, and she thought the phrase Reading Bubbies would play well on the phrase Reading Buddies.
"Every volunteer has had an incredibly happy, joyful time," said Kravitz, who reported that all Bubbies of last year (and Zaydees) had restarted this year, and I only got my chance because three new classes were added to the pre-school program.
Encore.org, a non-profit organization started by social entrepreneur Marc Freedman, has intergenerational partnerships at the heart of its mission. "In almost every case, everyone gets something out of it," says Marci Alboher, a senior employee at Encore. "It happens in every age combination." And we are not always talking about seniors and children. A couple has the "young old" (people in their years & # 39; 50 and & # 39; 60) who work with the & # 39; older elderly & # 39; (people in their 80s & 80s or older), says Alboher.
Alboher is attracted to working with teenagers and young adults. "I am always attracted to guiding young adults," she says. “I never get tired of it. They keep me relevant. & # 39; Alboher is a member of the board of Girls Write Now, a program that combines teenagers with a disadvantaged background with professional writers. When she met a young woman from that program in a local coffee shop, two years after they had worked together, they started making coffee bar soirees a normal business and became friends.
Alboher, 53, admits that working with young adults meets a need. "I never had children," she said. "That's my sweet spot." No surprise that, without grandchildren on the horizon, hanging around with three-year-olds is mine.
Brian O & # 39; Reilly, a Reading Zaydee at my synagogue, also has no grandchildren. So working with toddlers, he says, is pure pleasure: "The children are really, really, really cute."
Interested in intergenerational volunteering?
- The Gen2Gen program from Encore is a good starting point. It is full of ideas and opportunities for volunteering that link you to other age groups, including ways to do volunteer work from home.
- You can also contact your local church, school or library.
- If you are going to work with young children, it is a good idea to get a flu shot. And make sure you wash your hands after spending time with those cute vectors of illness. If you have a compromised immune system, talk to your doctor.
- When working with young adults, Marci Alboher warns: "You are not only there to teach, you are also there to learn. Being a smarter is not so attractive."