What do you get when you bring 100 or so children, 5 and under, together with 400 adults, 90 and over? Pure magic.
That's the thinking behind intergenerational programs that do just that. Recently, a nursing home for senior citizens in Seattle built an in-house pre-school program for young children, solving the broader community need for high quality pre-school care, and the need for a real community within the nursing home itself.
The result, over 25 years in the making, will warm your heart beyond belief.
Providence Mount St. Vincent, commonly called 'The Mount,' is a retirement home with a twist.
In 1991, a preschool was opened on the premises, with the hope that bringing the very old together with the very young would have benefits for both age groups. Charlene Boyd, an administrator at ‘The Mount’ explains, “We wanted to create a place for people to come to live, and not come to die.”
The residents and young students come together in planned and spontaneous ways, and enjoy life's moments together.
While dressing up and receiving treats might be commonplace for the youngsters, to be a part of it is sadly rare for seniors in nursing homes. “These children bring life, and vibrancy, and normalcy. It’s a gift,” says Boyd.
The benefits for the seniors are obvious.
“There’s nothing more delightful than seeing young children with noise, with laughter,” says Boyd, “You see the residents, and they hear the sound of the kids coming down the hall, and it’s as though sunlight just came through the window.”
The children benefit from the special relationships they form as well.
With early and frequent exposure to older people who may have different needs, the children learn early on to accept these differences as matter of fact. Some adults are frail and need assistance. Some may be in wheelchairs or hard of hearing. The kids take it all in stride.
The school/nursing home combo has attracted media attention.
Bringing young and old together seems so natural, and once people see the positive influence each group has on the other, the idea is easy to fall in love with.