I never went to a preschool when I was little. Instead, I stayed home with my mother while my older brother and sister went to the elementary school down the street. My mother and I made friendship bracelets and decoupage treasure boxes, cooked fun snacks and played board games. So it never used to occur to me that preschool could be anything different. And yet intergenerational programs—ones that include both residents of a nursing home and preschool students—have sprouted and made headlines across the country.
To name one that has gotten a significant amount of press coverage, the Providence Mount St. Vincent Senior Care Center in West Seattle houses four programs in the Intergenerational Learning Center. Children from infants to preschoolers interact with elderly residents for varying times of structured or unstructured activities. Each program has its own professional staff to facilitate relationships between children and older residents. There are over 400 older adults in residence, and five days a week the preschoolers and elderly residents come together to play under a rainbow tarp, pack sandwiches into bags and help each other with everyday tasks like zipping up a coat.
Daphne Sashin, in a 2015 CNN article, states that the school believes the intergenerational programs “benefit both the children and the elderly,” because the elderly get a renewed sense of worth, while the children experience and accept people with disabilities and the aging process.
Professor at Seattle University Evan Briggs spent the 2012–2013 academic year filming the Learning Center for three days a week, eventually calling the project Present Perfect, which is funded with her own money and the help of a Kickstarter campaign. Briggs says that the older residents “came alive” and that the whole program is “about being in the present moment” and demonstrates “how generationally segregated we’ve become as a society.” Nothing is glossed over in this documentary either; there are an abundance of awkward interactions and two residents passed away during filming. But to Briggs it is more important to face aging, death and other difficult moments in life head on.
With approximately 500 long-term care facilities that include intergenerational programs, the overlap of young and older people’s lives is becoming greater, and personally, it sounds like my kind of preschool. Present Perfect is planned for release in early 2017.
Did You Know?
As of April 2016, the world’s oldest living person is a woman named Susannah Mushatt Jones, born on July 6, 1899, in Lowndes County, Alabama. She has lived through 20 US presidents, two world wars and witnessed the turn of the century—twice. She attributes her long life to surrounding herself with positive energy and to sleeping. She is 116 years old.
Photo Credit: via Twenty20/@TravellingMumma