My mom sent me this video, as Grandma Millie is someone she knows:
Aside from being cool just for the “old people who get out and do stuff are cool” factor, it’s also a pretty interesting idea in general. Granted, anyone can volunteer, so it’s not like the option isn’t there, and Grandma Millie obviously isn’t exactly your standard 89 year old, but it does seem like a really good match. Schools are increasingly underfunded and understaffed, and there’s an ever growing retired / elderly population, especially with the baby boomers coming up.
From visits to my own grandmother, I can tell you that a lot of the people at retirement communities really don’t get many visitors, and particularly not young ones, but particularly love visitors, and particularly young one. Kids move away and get busy with their day to day lives (self as case in point on both) and don’t visit much. And loneliness and a certain lack of purpose seem to crop up in older people’s lives, especially if their spouses are gone. And let’s be honest, retirement homes, assisted living communities, etc are not exactly the most inviting places in the world to visit (or I would imagine, live). There’s a certain slow paced, reverently hushed, orderly plodding about them.
But, as a sort of fitting to the concept of second childhood, elementary school classrooms can also have a sort of slow paced, reverently hushed, orderly plodding about them (granted, with many more bursts of disorderliness and energy, but still).
It would seem like a pretty good fit to have retirement communities, the AARP, or other groups for retired people organize a sort of exchange program with elementary schools, where retired people can go to (or perhaps be bused to / shuttled to if the can’t drive) elementary schools to help with tutoring subjects like reading, math, and music. Teachers would get free or cheap teacher’s aids, kids who might otherwise get overlooked get tutors, and lonely older people get youthful companionship, a sense of purpose and involvement, and something to help stay mentally active. It would seem especially important given that a lot of research shows keeping mentally active and involved helps delay the onset of a lot of the mental deterioration that can come with older age.
There’s also the fact that there’s another adult available all the time in the class room, so there’s the added safety for the retiree that if they fall and need help, or whatever situation may arise where they need prompt assistance, there’s someone there to help, and usually a nurse on site at the school.
From the residents of assisted living communities and retirement homes that I’ve met, as well as older people who live at home and don’t get out much, they also seem to get a lot of their views and opinions of the outside world from watching cable news channels, which tend to give less than a rosy outlook on the state of the world (Are terrorists selling fake prescription drugs to your pharmacy? Stay tuned for our full investigative report after the break, but first, see our exclusive video of a mother who threw her infant child in a snow bank and ran off….). Actually getting out and meeting people can help one’s overall attitude (again, self as evidence for times when I’ve worked way too many hours in the corporate world and decided all people are selfish bastard who would chop off your leg if someone offered them $5 for it… until I head out the bar with friends and remember, oh yeah, most people aren’t so bad). Again, a more positive attitude has also been shown to improve health and increase life expectancy.
There may be lots of logistical issues I’m missing here, and I’m making broad, sweeping generalizations about a various groups of people I’m not a part of and don’t have lots of interactions with. So, the exchange program obviously wouldn’t be for everyone, but it would seem like organizing opportunities for matches like this would be something nice to set up.