Nursery Meets Nursing Home: Seattle Caregiving For Youngest And Oldest Generations

Getting older is no joke. Many older adults find themselves unable to live independently, disconnected from loved ones, and depressed because of the many life changes that they can't control. Nursing homes and other similar senior care organizations have tried to make the aging lifestyle as enjoyable as possible, and one is taking a whole new approach.

The Providence Mount Saint Vincent ("The Mount") care home's Intergenerational Learning Center project doesn't just cater to one generation of individuals. While the other demographic may not be full-term residents of the Seattle facility, preschoolers are often found within its walls. If you were to ask the home's management, you'd hear them say that both the youngest and oldest generation are residents there - meaning, they are of equal importance and belonging. This is especially true since the children are in attendance five days per week.

The goal of this facility is to improve the quality of lives and education for both the seniors and the children. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.4 million older Americans reside in nursing homes. According to other published statistics, more than 50% suffer from some form of depression or mental illness. There are a number of reasons for this; as it stands, with age comes an increased likelihood of depression. However, there are other contributors as well, including the feeling of losing independence, knowing that their physical and mental health is declining, and general isolation and loneliness. While in nursing homes, seniors often lose the level of socialization they're used to with family and friends. Social functions do tend to be a part of nursing home life, but such activities are typically well organized and regimented. 

For the quality of life of these seniors, many nursing homes have programs to focus on on providing residents with interpersonal interactions; whether it's with each other, entertainment program visitors, or events that bring family and friends. But these nursing home sanctioned have one fatal flaw - the do not offer human interaction on a consistent or reliable basis. 

By introducing a program for birth nursery-aged children and older adults, The Mount intends to combat these issues, and right from its inception, have seen a lot of success. Staff claims that the moment the children walk through the door to begin their day, the senior residents perk right up and are ready to engage with the little ones. Both sides learn (or relearn) important skills from each other - including patience and creative communication. For many seniors, it's a chance to interact with a generation that gives them the experience they might be missing with their grandchildren between family visits. It also helps them focus on living in the present moment - not looking back at what they've lost or what they might face in the future. 

According to the parents of the children enrolled in the program, their motivations for choosing this preschool exist beyond the unique structure offered. The school is known for its teachers, quality of care, and the learning opportunities created. They focus heavily on community involvement, doing activities like making sandwiches for the homeless.  Other activities bring the generations together with dance, art, music, games, or simply visiting; components that would be part of the preschool program whether or not the elderly were part of the picture. That said, many have started to notice the positive impact these daily interactions have on the lives of both their children, and the nursing home's senior residents. The latter, being equally relatable as parents witness the way that their own parents or grandparents navigate their way through the aging process.

Impressed by this senior/child care business concept, an adjunct professor from Seattle University Evan Briggs decided to make a film about what's happening at The Mount. Her goal is to bring awareness to aging in America and how our society's approach to senior care typically leaves them isolated. She's raising funds via KickStarter to have her documentary produced, and with the release of the feature called "Present Perfect", we might just see similar business concepts popping up around the country.

Note: as of this morning, with 50 hours to go on KickStarter, the production has earned over $101K; vastly surpassing their $50K goal.

 Via: ABC News