Nursing homes are often thought of as depressing places that no one wants to visit, never mind live in. Residents are surrounded by others in very similar situations and opportunities for social connections are limited to a small circle. Typically, joy and liveliness are not terms associated with a nursing home. This is not to say they are completely absent, but hard to come by in the least. And yet, there is an abundance of energy and excitement in your typical preschool. Very young children are so open and carefree that they bring love and laughter with them everywhere they go. So why not bring it to a nursing home?
This relatively uncommon program goes well beyond regular visits to the elderly. The Intergenerational Learning Center is a full time preschool program that is actually located within a senior center in Seattle. Elderly residents do far more than sit around and enjoy the site of children playing. They participate and share the rich experiences they have to offer, while the children light up their lives five days a week.
Social isolation is a serious problem for the elderly. It is estimated that 43% of seniors experience it and it is unhealthy in many ways, both mentally and physically. While it may be difficult to form strong connections amongst peers, especially in a place and time where the social pool is regularly shifting and too often on the brink of death, children offer an open and far less risky opportunity to bond and interact. Their innocence, simplicity, and open nature can reach into lonely hearts and bring joy.
Housing a preschool in a nursing home is a beautiful and elegant pairing that’s mutually beneficial. Seniors get value from helping others, teaching, and simply enjoying the exuberance and sincerity of children. The children benefit from the experience and love that elderly residents offer in abundance, not to mention the value of connecting with others experiencing different life situations. The following documentary showcases the incredible tenderness with which each generation interacts with the other and is a touching but powerful argument for the development of more programs like this one.