Many people struggle with loneliness, but it can be particularly hard among older adults. One unique daycare model is hoping to change that, by bringing children and seniors together.
It’s called the Intergenerational Learning Center, and it’s situated inside the Providence Mount St. Vincent senior care facility in West Seattle. It’s a place where babies as young as 6 weeks old and those approaching centenarian status can help and appreciate each other.
“Somebody might have profound dementia and maybe has been a mother all their life, and then when you hold a child, just think about what comes back to you,” said Charlene Boyd, one of the founders of the program and an administrator at the senior care facility.
The program is now in its third decade.
“Sometimes that engagement will make the world of difference, even if it’s just for a moment,” Boyd says of the interaction between the children and seniors.
Boyd truly believes there’s something magical that happens when you pair pre-k children with seniors, many of whom struggle even to communicate.
“[The kids] know the vulnerability of these older adults,” Boyd says. “They see the frailty, but they embrace it.”
Six times a week, Ollie, Owen, and Cameron--from the 2 and 3-year-old groups-- are chauffeured through the care facility’s hallways via little red wagons. It’s their primary mode of transit to get to the many planned activities with the senior residents.
“They do art, they do music, they do exercise,” Boyd said. “That also allows a purposefulness between the two of them and how they can help each other.”
The program is open to anyone, but it’s become so popular the wait list is currently over 400 families long, with an average wait of two and a half years.
Mom Lisa Kumar joked that she wanted an in for her kids so badly, she got a job at the care facility.
“I applied and I was like ‘yes and then I can get my son in,’” she says, grinning.
Kumar says the program teaches kids about diversity.
“People are different. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a wheelchair or if they have a walker,” Kumar says. “I hope that they become well-rounded individuals and accept people for what they are and what their differences are.”
Senior resident Mary Ellen Farley, who struggled to remember how long she’s lived at Providence Mount St. Vincent, loves the time spent with the children.
“Because they’re so thrilling!” she said, grinning wildly.