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Offline spud

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intergenerational day care
« on: March 30, 2008, 06:31:54 PM »
Intergenerational Day Care
Bridges Built of Love and Understanding

by Valerie Linden

A slowly growing day care movement is revisiting an old truth: Our youngest and oldest citizens have much to offer each other.
It’s called Intergenerational Day Care. Under this concept, seniors participate in child care activities and sometimes share facilities with the care center. The use of intergenerational strategies such as day care is growing as the baby boom generation gets older and the need for seniors to find productive roles increases.
There are many variations of intergenerational day care, including “shared sites,” locations that house both a child care center and a senior center. Often at such sites, day care and senior programming share a community space where groups come together on a regular basis for activities.
Although intergenerational day care has not become a trend yet in the Delaware Valley, it has begun to take hold slowly here and across the country, says John Reynolds, president of the Lorna W. Reynolds Children’s Development Fund, Inc.
The Fund promotes day cares in which the very old help the young at or near senior citizen communities. These day cares bridge the gap between the young and old with integrated activities that allow seniors and young children to participate and work together.

Life’s Lessons
The move to this type of day care benefits all generations. “The kids are not there to perform or to be cute,” says Anna L. Musselman, executive director of the Salford Mennonite Childcare Centers, which has an intergenerational program at Lansdale’s Dock Woods Community. “We are there to build
At the Fels South Philadelphia’s Community Center, funded by the Caring People Alliance, children and senior citizens interact in the hallways, in the classrooms and in recreational areas. Seniors are encouraged to stop into classrooms to spend time with the children.
The Community Center also features formal intergenerational programs every year such as Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, Breakfast with Santa, a Mardi Gras Celebration and Christmas in July.
Every year a senior dresses up as Santa, says Fran Sposaro, the day care supervisor at the Fels Community Center. One year, she recalls, Santa told her the only gift he wanted was the pictures of the event to remember the day.
At Dock Woods, children play in a courtyard between buildings in which the seniors live so they can watch the children play and interact with them throughout the day. Seniors at Dock Woods help serve lunch and perform maintenance in the
Music and art classes also help build relationships at Dock Woods. Seniors often read a book to the children and then together they create a collage about the story.

Understanding and Respect
Building relationships is just one benefit that promotes learning across generations. “It’s an early start to understanding and getting along with different people. And they are learning from the seniors these wonderful traditions,” says Lee Fass, program coordinator and counselor for older adults at the Fels Community Center.
Fass says seniors teach kids about respect, understanding other cultures and politeness. Dialogue between generations promotes positive attitudes toward the elderly. The program at Dock Woods also teaches children how to relate to seniors with dementia and illness.
Politeness and respect are imbedded in the rules of an intergenerational setting. Musselman says that at Dock Woods, children learn a strict no-running-in-the-halls policy to avoid injuring the seniors living there.
Intergenerational day care can impart knowledge to seniors, even as they teach children new skills. Fred Barfoot, development director for the Caring People Alliance of Philadelphia says he often listens in on conversations and hears children telling an older person about something they saw on TV or something the senior knows nothing about.
“The older adults’ listening sharpens, their attention sharpens and the kids know they have an audience,” he says. “They have a job to do. It’s so much fun listening to a kid articulate words that the senior understands.”

All You Need Is Love
Sometimes the benefit of an intergenerational program is as simple as love and care. At the Fels Community Center the joy is evident at music classes the seniors and kids share. “It gets the seniors up dancing. They hold hands,” says Fass. “They are all singing the same songs and the kids really enjoy that.”
Sposaro says sometimes kids just need an extra set of arms, and providing this attention helps the senior citizens feel needed. She notes that often the seniors get more out of these programs than the kids. “The light these children bring to their eyes is something I cannot forget in my entire life,” Musselman says.
Reynolds’s organization helped fund the Friendship Center, an intergenerational day care linked to Heath Valley, a full service retirement community in Hackettstown, NJ. He says adult attention is especially important when both parents work outside the home.
At Dock Woods, the seniors understand the importance of this concentrated adult attention. Musselman says if someone hears an infant crying in the day care, she will come in and rock the baby. This rocking is also therapeutic to the senior citizens, especially those suffering from dementia.
“No one forgets how to hold a baby,” Musselman says. “It is really special. The baby knows them.”

Day Care and Beyond
Intergenerational programming does not end with day care, says Nancy Henkin, executive director of the Temple University Center for Intergenerational Learning. Day care that involves seniors is just one strategy that meets the needs of all ages in the
The Temple University Center for Intergenerational Learning hosts various programs that work with the old and the young. In a national literacy program, older adults help elementary school children with reading and writing. An after-school program, called Grandma’s Kids, aims at preventing violence and substance abuse among kids being raised by grandparents or alternate
Recently the Fels Center introduced an intergenerational program called Animals, Plants & Me, which includes animal-assisted therapy for those who are homebound. With help from South Philadelphia’s Methodist Hospital Foundation, animals and plants are used to help build relationships among the generations.
The possibilities for old and young to share knowledge, experiences and love seem bound only by imagination and opportunity.

Valerie Linden is a local freelance writer.


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