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Bringing different generations together proves fruitful for all

James W. Slater
Law Talk

Published: July 30, 2015

Putting a pre-school inside a nursing home may seem an unlikely blend of age groups, but the joining of youngest and oldest is delivering some very positive results.

The Intergenerational Learning Center, located at Providence Mount St. Vincent, a Washington state senior care center, has so impressed onlookers that one filmmaker, Evan Briggs, decided to make a documentary about the interaction between the children and the nursing home residents. She titled her work “Present Perfect” and said it really helped her realize the generational segregation that exists in ordinary society.

In the West San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, a program linking seniors with neighborhood youngsters has existed since 1994. Adult daycare and childcare operate in a shared setting with infants as young as six weeks matched up with senior citizen mentors. Older adults tutor young people providing critical one-on-one attention while young people help make the seniors more comfortable with new technologies.

Ohio has unique program in University Circle

Judson Manor, a retirement center in Cleveland, Ohio, partners with Ruffing Montessori School in Cleveland Heights and other area schools and colleges to enable seniors to interact with pre-school to college age students. Residents of Judson Manor go out into the community and volunteer at schools and with different civic groups on a daily basis.

Recently Judson Manor had the opportunity to offer two Cleveland Institute of Music students an apartment at the Manor free-of-charge. The students, who have a chance to practice in the Manor’s ballroom, (the nursing home was once a fancy hotel) must only perform concerts for the residents in return for their “rent.” Although many residents listen to the musicians every day, a large group of Judson residents was signed up to attend an upcoming student performance.

In Ocean Park, NJ, a preschool/senior companion program is mutually beneficial for both seniors and children, according to the program’s founder and executive director Timothy Cassidy. The companion program is the offshoot of Preventive Aging Center Inc. (PAC), a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 to provide free wellness and intergenerational programs to senior citizens in the community.

The program links children from local child care centers, day camps, area schools, YMCAs, scout troops and other local youth centers with older adults, predominantly those in nursing facilities, who are not ambulatory. Some nursing home residents correspond with their “foster grandchildren” between visits.

Studies have shown these residents have more positive attitudes and memory improvement than those who do not participate in the PAC program. Preventive’s future mission is to assist of health care facilities in establishing their own preschool/senior companion program.

Grantmakers in Aging sponsors various philanthropies

Grantmakers in Aging, an Arlington, Virginia-based organization dedicated to improving the experience of aging and fostering the idea of the young and old working together has several intergenerational efforts ongoing throughout the U.S.

In Denver, Bessie’s Hope Youth and Elders Program matches at-risk youth with nursing home and assisted living residents. Many of the one-on-one relationships have lasted for years between the teens and the seniors.

In Rockville, Maryland, 30 students and 10 senior citizens meet weekly to discuss current events and social and political issues. The program, “Dialogues Across the Ages,” strives to help eradicate negative stereotypes each group may hold regarding one another.

In Milwaukee, students meet weekly with older adults at senior centers and in their schools to create art. Danceworks operates this Intergenerational Multi Art Project (IMAP) which partners with the Milwaukee Catholic Home and United Community Center’s Latino Geriatric Center.

Seniors everywhere are finding they have much left to give and the youth are in need of their special gifts.

This article was written by Attorney James W. Slater of the Akron, Ohio law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP.