I had a chance to visit a Kindermusik class last week. Kindermusik is a program that introduces young children to music and movement. It’s been around for forty years and operates in seventy countries.
The class was fun! The children were all under two years old and they crawled around exploring the space and we sang together, danced together and played games.
At one point the teacher put on a recording of a song I knew well. I had heard my mother playing it on the piano and singing it when I was a child. My Mom has a wonderful musical ear and on Sunday afternoons when we were growing up she routinely indulged in an hour or so at the piano playing from memory a medley of favorite tunes from her youth. Let Me Call You Sweetheart was a song Mom often played and sang along to. When the Kindermusik teacher put it on to accompany our dancing I recognized it right away and sang along softly.
I wondered why the teacher had chosen such an old song for such young children and she explained. The Kindermusik organization has Let Me Call You Sweetheart in their song repertoire because in some cities they hold a series of classes in senior citizens’ homes. The residents participate with the children. It is stimulating for the seniors and they love having the children there. The success of this program has led to a similar one where Kindermusik classes are held on Alzheimer hospital wards. Old songs like Let Me Call You Sweetheart are played because while people suffering from dementia forget many things, their musical memory is often intact and they can recall songs from their youth and will sing and move along to the music with the visiting toddlers.
That got me thinking about how little opportunity people from the very oldest and very youngest generations have to interact in our present day. This used to happen in homes and neighborhoods since elderly people lived with their families. Now seniors live in nursing homes and seniors’ apartment complexes. Intergenerational interaction used to happen at churches. But now many young families don’t attend church and seniors often listen or watch worship services telecast into their care homes.
In 2013 we probably need to be more deliberate about initiatives like the one Kindermusik is trying, that provide an opportunity for the very oldest and very youngest generations to interact and enrich one another’s lives.
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