The relationship between a grandchild and grandparent is a special one. While parents can be an authority figure for children, grandparents can spoil their grandchildren in a way parents cannot. Grandparents also have an influence on their grandchildren.
A first in Istanbul, the "life center" set up in the city's Esenler neighborhood exclusively serves grandparents and their grandchildren, allowing them to join cultural activities and spend more time together. The center currently hosts more than 600 members including grandmothers, grandfathers and children.
Extending along an area of 23,000 square meters, the large building employs specialist family psychologists and teachers encouraging the children to play as they wish and participate in workshops ranging from cooking to art-related design. The center houses various recreational sections like chess rooms, tale rooms, music rooms, hobby and art rooms as well as playrooms, a garden, hairdresser and cafe.
Instead of staying at home, retired grandparents can join the center and share their knowledge with their grandchildren and entertain themselves. In the stories room, grandparents tell traditional tales and stories, enabling a cultural exchange. Children try to learn making cookies and easy pastries with their grandmothers. In the chess room, they play and compete with each other.
Married with five children, Kenan Yağcı, 60, is one of the center's members who regularly visit. "I have 10 grandchildren and come here twice a week. For grandparents, it is important to interact with their grandchildren. I play chess with them and have also established good friendships with other members," he said. Eleven-year-old Emin Yağcı said he is getting to know his grandfather better as they enjoy one-on-one time at the center. "There are lots of activities here. I am quite happy to be with my grandfather."
Mehmet Tevfik Göksu, the mayor of Esenler Municipality, said many grandparents just stay at home and can be distant from social life. "The center aims to make grandparents and grandchildren spend quality time together. It also acts as a rehabilitation center as they can open up about their problems to the psychologists here," he said.
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