Preschool Inside Retirement Home Brings Joy To Kids And Seniors Alike

Preschool Inside Retirement Home Brings Joy To Kids And Seniors Alike

How can we brighten up the lives of people living in nursing homes? The Providence Mount St. Vincent elderly care facility in Seattle opened a preschool in their building to create a greater sense of community – and the results have been phenomenal. For the children, it’s like having dozens of adoring grandparents. The senior citizens light up when the adorable young faces arrive. They share their wisdom and play with the children, cherishing visits from the surrogate grandkids.

Administrator Charlene Boyd explains, “We wanted to create a place for people to come live, not come to die.” When the children visit, seniors find themselves physically active, laughing and acting as role models. Interacting with the preschoolers gives them a sense of purpose and self-worth.

There are 500 elderly residents and 125 children in the Intergenerational Learning Center at the Mount. Different groups of children leave their classrooms to visit the elder care facility each day.

Some activities are planned and others occur spontaneously. Sing-alongs, dancing, art, storytelling, recreational games and playtime are often on the agenda. The residents and children also come together to make sandwiches for the homeless. Working and playing together result in the two generations forming strong bonds.

In addition to playing with schoolchildren, the seniors also interact with babies. One resident suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s Disease was able to access the part of her brain that remembered raising children. Before spending time with the babies, her speech was garbled and incomprehensible. But in the presence of the babies, she spoke clearly.

Everyone, especially the elderly, can benefit from social interaction of all kinds. As research has found with therapy animals, seniors’ mental and physical health are both improved by spending time with other beings.

And the children at the Mount benefit greatly from socializing with elders. They learn about disabilities and aging, thus developing empathy for older people. Fortunately, they seem to be too young to understand the concept of death. If they notice someone is missing and that person has passed away, the teachers ask the children to share their favorite memory of the deceased. The children do not dwell on death because they do not understand it.

They are also remarkably patient with people suffering from dementia. If an older person is hard of hearing or forgetful and asks a child to repeat something over and over, the child complies without becoming frustrated.

Photo courtesy of Providence Mount Saint Vincent

The juxtaposition of these two populations and their beautiful interaction inspired filmmaker Evan Briggs to produce a documentary about the Intergenerational Learning Center called The Growing Season. The film illustrates the benefits of the elderly and preschoolers spending time together.

This model of mixing children beginning their lives with senior citizens who have decades of history to share results in wonderful experiences on both sides. Their complementary relationship proves that we should place more value on our older generations. Ageism is an unwarranted insult to people who have so much to share.

The preschool is staffed with well-qualified teachers, and the intergenerational model appeals to parents. There are over 400 families on the waiting list to attend school at The Mount. Many facilities have and plan to copy the model, to the benefit of children and senior citizens all over the world.

Note: Please keep comments peaceful and family friendly.

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  1. bev

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS IDEA! I think all states should adopt this “model” and get the seniors involved and active and fill their days again with joy and delight! And the kids think they are all “their” grandma and grandpa’s. What could be better?!

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  2. Brian Pigeau

    I dont know who came up with this idea but I do know that it is brilliant. Teach the children to love, respect and learn about growing old and giving our elderly something to do with their time and help remove so much of the loneliness that causes for many to give up. Too often families drop off their parents, a parent then forget all about them. A win win arrangement. Beautiful.

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    great article!! gut WHERE, pray tell, is ‘Mt. Vernon”?? WHAT CITY AND STATE….. the author may not recall the most basic of reporting; ‘who/what/why/where/when/how……….so, again, WHERE IS THIS PLACE WHAT STATE!?!?!?!?

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  4. Edward

    What a wonderful idea. Rather than leaving our elderly to rot alone without joy or stimulation let the age’d wise ones give back to those learning their first steps. The patience and knowledge of the elderly traded for the joy and excitement of the young. Bravo. Amazing idea. Would like to see this everywhere. The younger would grow up with a grater respect for their elders with perhaps a better start off into life and the elders could perhaps live longer with more stimulation and or enjoyment in their lasting days much more.

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  5. Leanne

    I think that is an absolutely brillant idea. It provides stimulation for the minds if the elderly and a chance for the young to interact with elderly people. Bravo to the person(s) who came up with it.

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