by Melanie Minnaar who works in corporate marketing communications and is currently enjoying her maternity leave.  Mother to ‘archangels’, Michael and Gabriel,  wife to an IT consultant she is an information-junkie,  hooked on technology and online social networking. You can tweet her @MelanieMinnaar

One of the legacies passed on to me by my parents was respect for elderly people. In today’s society where older people are often seen as irrelevant at best and useless at worst, it has become very important to me that I find a way to instill this same value into my own children.

One of my favourite childhood memories is that of going to visit the Red Cross Old Age Home with my mother.  We would pick flowers from our garden and hand them out to the residents. My mom would take biscuits or small gifts for special occasions. The delight on the recipients faces would light up the room and the experience clearly made an impact on me as this is form of philanthropy is something that is very dear to me still.

My family now visits the Chinese Home for the Aged in Joburg as often as we can. We’ve even held our Easter egg hunt in the gardens of the home. This was great fun for the kids, but even more rewarding as the residents were only too happy to be witness to the joy on the childrens faces. I hope that this has a positive and lasting effect on my sons and so will continue the small bit of kindness that we can contribute back to the elderly.



Here are some ideas for you to also help our children remember our aged with respect and in a positive way:

  • Get a birthday list from your local old age home, take a flower to the birthday ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ and make a 5 minute visit to wish them happy birthday. So many of us do ‘scrapbooking’ these days – teach your children that gratification not only comes from recognition of their own abilities but also from how they are rewarded by making a difference to others.
  • For school projects – get your children to engage with the elderly to hear their accounts of history 1st hand, it will be an enlightening and personal experience. They will learn there is much wisdom to be gleaned from their company.
  • Volunteer to raise funds and get your kids involved so that they are aware of what they are doing and the difference they are making
  • Keep the aged in your bedtime prayers – finding ways to show your children to acknowledge the dignity of the elderly
  • Encourage your children to take time to LISTEN to the elderly. They will learn that ‘old’ people aren’t to be feared, even if they had some kind of a physical or mental disability caused by old age.
  • (With the permission of the Old Age Home) Take along small animals from home and let the residents interact and play with them

Whatever and however you choose to bridge the link to the elderly with your children, keep it positive and don’t expose your very young children to the negatives which they won’t be able to comprehend at the time; illness, grief, debilitating mental conditions.

I’m so thankful for this value that my parents passed on to me and one of my hopes for my children is that they don’t ever feel this concept referred to as the “generation gap”. The disconnect that can happen between the young and the old is indeed a sad loss. As relationships continue to break down in our society due to neglect, I believe that it’s vitally important to intentionally teach our children how to build them up.

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