Graying hair and wrinkled skin shows years of experiences, but kids often miss out on the stories of those experiences because of a lack of interaction with the elderly. Young children are sometimes afraid of senior citizens because they are unsure of their appearance or mannerisms. Other kids might feel as though they won't have anything in common with a person so much older. Encouraging your child to interact with senior citizens can benefit both sides of the relationship.
Talk about elderly people your child already knows, such as a grandparent or elderly neighbor. Explain that senior citizens sometimes feel lonely because their kids are grown and their spouses might be dead. Point out that some elderly people have difficulty moving around or doing daily tasks, such as carrying groceries into the house.
Read a book that includes elderly characters. Try a book such as Barbara Dugan's "Loop the Loop" or Mem Fox's "Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge," which depicts a relationship between a child and an older person. The book introduces your child to the idea of interacting with someone who is much older than she is.
Interact with senior citizens to serve as a model for your child. Go over to an elderly neighbor's house to chat when you see her outside. Hold the door for a senior citizen at the door. Bake cookies for a nursing home once a month. Your child might be more interested in helping out older people when she sees you interacting with them.
Identify an elderly person that your child can connect with, such as a neighbor, grandparent or a person you know who is in a nursing home. Set up meetings with the elderly person so your child can meet her and get to know her. Encourage activities, such as singing for the senior citizen or reading a book together.
Come up with other ways your child could help the elderly in the community. Let her know even a small act could make a senior citizen feel less lonely. Examples of ways to interact with seniors include regularly visiting nursing home residents, sending pictures to elderly relatives, shoveling the snow from an elderly neighbor's driveway, or simply saying "hello" to an elderly person you see.
Encourage continued interaction to build a real relationship rather than a one-time visit that might not have as much effect.