In a world where the family has been broken down into small nuclear power plants and parents and their grown children often live thousands of miles apart, the pairing of the older with the younger takes off. There is a nursing home in the Netherlands where students who agree to contact their parents can be accommodated free of charge. The Treehouse Foundation, based in Easthampton, Massachussett, which has revised the care system in line with a village paradigm, invites seniors to volunteer as replacement grandparents to care for children.
Meet Bubbie Debbie
am not a grandparent, but I am – to use a Yiddish word – a Bubbie. Every Wednesday morning I am Bubbie Debbie, reader of picture books and all-round helper of an enchanting class of three-year-olds in my local synagogue for about an hour.
I knew that this voluntary performance would be fun and fill a gap in my life. I don't deal with children every day. I wasn't prepared for it to be profound. But on my first day reading a picture book about art, one of the children raised a hand and repeated a word I had just read.
"Inspiration?" She asked.
"Inspiration," I repeated, realizing that I ̵
The Reading Bubbies program at Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, New Jersey was inspired by Debbie Kravitz, who was herself a preschool teacher and volunteer for the temple. She hadn't heard of such a program exactly, but she knew that childcare and daycare for adults were experimentally paired with one another across the country, and she thought that the "Reading Bubbies" phrase was a good match with the "Reading Buddies" phrase would be.
"Every volunteer had an incredibly happy and joyful time," said Kravitz, reporting that all of the Bubbies (and Zaydees) from last year had been replenished this year and I only got my chance because three new classes were added to the preschool programs were added.
Encore.org, a nonprofit organization created by social entrepreneur Marc Freedman, focuses on cross-generational partnerships. "In almost all cases, everyone benefits from it," says Marci Alboher, Encore executive. "It happens with every mating from age to age." And we don't always talk about seniors and children. According to Alboher, the “young old” (between 50 and 60 years) works with the “older old” (over 80 years) in a pairing.
Alboher himself loves working with teenagers and young adults. "It always attracts me to look after young adults," she says. "I never tire of it. You keep me up to date. “Alboher is a member of the Board of Girls Write Now, a program that brings youth with under-served backgrounds together with professional writers. When she met a young woman from this program at a local cafe two years after working together, they started doing coffee shop soirees and became friends.
Alboher, 53, admits that he works with her to meet young adults' needs. "I never had children," she said. "That is my darling." No wonder it is mine to hang out with three-year-olds because there are no grandchildren on the horizon.
Brian O’Reilly, a reading Zaydee in my synagogue, has no grandchildren either. So working with preschoolers is a pure pleasure: "The children are really, really, really cute."
Interested In Intergenerational Volunteering?
- The Encore Gen2Gen program is a good place to start. It is full of ideas and opportunities for volunteering that connect you with other age groups, including opportunities to volunteer from home.
- You can also check with your local church, school, or library.
- If you're working with young children, getting a flu shot is a good idea. And wash your hands after spending time with these adorable disease carriers. If you have a weakened immune system, talk to your doctor.
- When working with young adults, Marci Alboher warns: "They are not only there to teach, but also to learn. To be knowledgeable is not so attractive."