Seniors and Kids Thrive When Day Care and Nursing Home Combine

Jerriann Sullivan
Oct. 26, 2017

This day care inside a nursing home has a wait list of 400 people. 

Photo via YouTube.

A care facility in Seattle, Washington is helping the youngest and oldest humans receive the special attention both groups need. By running a day care in its senior living facility, Providence Mount St. Vincent is helping kids and the elderly thrive.  

"We wanted to create a place for people to come to live, and not come to die," Providence Mount St. Vincent (The Mount) Administrator Charlene Boyd told PBS Newshour. "All of us have common needs to be loved, and all of us have common needs to share life together. And so these children bring life and vibrancy and normalcy." 

In 1991, Boyd and other administrators decided to develop a preschool within the nursing home. Monday through Friday 125 children join the 500 senior citizens who live at The Mount. They also established an intergenerational learning center, where the seniors and kids can connect, play and learn together. 

"It’s a gift. It’s a gift in exposing young families to positive aspects of aging," Boyd said. "And it’s a gift of also having children seeing frailty, normalcy and that’s part of that full circle of life." 

Photo via YouTube.

For residents like ninety-three-year-old Harriet Thompson the additional of children to the living facility has been incredible. 

"I’m a great-great-grandmother, but they’re in another town. I can’t hold my own little girl because she’s far away. And so this is what makes me happy," Thompson said. "You get to know them, and watch them, and act silly with them. And it’s good to feel like you’re 3 years old again." 

Thompson said spending time with the kids brings her: "Happiness, just plain old happiness. You know, yes, it beats anything else. Beats television." 

Boyd said the addition of kids helps seniors battle boredom and loneliness.

"There’s nothing more delightful than seeing young children with noise, with laughter," Boyd said. "You see the residents, and they hear the sound of the kids coming down the hall, and it’s as though sunlight just came through the window." 

Marie Hoover runs the intergenerational learning center so she's got a front row seat to the benefits the interactions bring the residents and the students. Among other things, the combined activities help kids feel comfortable with older people, according to Hoover. 

Photo via YouTube.

"Whether they’re in a wheelchair, or in a walker, or maybe they’re hard to understand, or you have to speak louder, it is just about who that individual is, and they adjust," Hoover said. "The kids just don’t — they really don’t blink an eye. This is normal. This is just who this resident is." 

One might wonder how the kids cope with the death of an older friend they go used to seeing around The Mount. Hoover said the kids haven't conceptualized death yet. 

"Even our oldest kids, at 5, kids don’t quite get that whole death concept. If the kids bring that up to the teachers, then the teacher’s response is going to be, 'I miss Mary too. What’s your favorite memory about what she did?'" Hoover said. "And those are the kinds of things they’re going to focus in on, as opposed to somebody died. They’re just not quite ready to get that concept." 

The Mount currently has 400 families are its wait list. Watch a clip from a documentary on the facility below. 

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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