Regardless of what stage an individual is at in life, self-growth and happiness should be encouraged at all points. A senior care center, Providence Mount St. Vincent, in Seattle, Washington, is encouraging just that.
Titled The Intergenerational Learning Center, this preschool brings together the old and young, creating an atmosphere not experienced in most preschool settings.
These types of preschools aren’t all that common, but I feel the mutual benefit on both ends is worth looking at.
The days of preschool where sticky hands were the norm and activities were always on the agenda were happy times for the most part. I don’t remember much from these days, but I do remember thinking at a young age that I’d always be a kid forever.
Although this idea didn’t pan out as my five-year-old self once thought, over time, I’ve come to accept the inevitable process of aging for what it is. We embrace the beginning stages of life with such positive happiness, yet view the final stages as quite the opposite.
A great amount of attention goes to early childhood for many obvious and important reasons. Children are our future, and we as adults should take it upon ourselves to create an appropriate world to leave behind for the coming generations.
However, let us not forget about those older generations because without them, we wouldn’t even exist. I feel as though more attention needs to be paid to senior citizens in our country.
By saying this, I don’t mean to take away any of the attention children receive, but rather to also bear in mind those at the opposite end of this experience we call life.
I feel this much needed attention can be brought to both of those individuals just starting out on their life’s path and those nearing the end of theirs by bringing both groups together.
Combining a preschool and a retirement home under the same roof could provide a learning experience like no other for both the young and old. By linking these demographics together, the children are given the opportunity to interact with others who come from generations far before them.
Aside from education and unique interactions, more specifically to seniors, many health and social benefits can be received from engaging in this sort of environment.
With old age comes the inability to do what one used to, and as a result, some older individuals don’t get out and socialize as much as they should. This may in part have to do with family situations or loss of friends over time, but whatever the reason, exposing seniors to preschool-aged children can help them attain a renewed sense of a social life. Especially for those elderly members of our society living in an assisted living homes, some days can be quite lonely.
Social isolation is closely connected to depression and dementia, among other detrimental health effects, and is quite common among elderly folks, especially those cooped up in retirement homes.
According to an article published on http://www.medscape.com, “Current estimates of the prevalence of social isolation in community-dwelling older adults indicate that it is as high as 43 percent, ranging from 10 to 43 percent.”
Some may associate this sort of living situation with loneliness. However, despite being closely related, there is a difference between loneliness and social isolation.
According to an article published on https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org, “Social isolation arises in situations where a person does not have enough people to interact with, an objective state, loneliness is the subjective experience of distress over not having enough social relationships or not enough contact with people.”
This same article went on to explain that, “A person can be socially isolated but not feel lonely, whereas an individual with a seemingly large social network can still experience loneliness.” If preschools were more commonly embedded within senior care centers these feelings could be lessened or removed completely through interacting with the youth.
By interacting with preschool-aged children, seniors are able to engage in conversation, share their knowledge and become more involved with those youngest members of their community.
In turn, the children are able to develop different kinds of friendships at this unique preschool. I feel this type of preschool should be more common.
This sort of environment may even give these seniors a feeling of self-worth, as the kids come to school five days a week eager to see their pals, old and young. This sort of preschool setting seems too beneficial not to be invested in.
I feel as though this idea could bring communities together, while bringing attention to those living in nursing homes by connecting the young and old. A retirement home may not be envisioned as an exhilarating place to be, but these senior’s days could be brightened all while children learn beside them.
Adam Urquhart can be contacted at Aurquhart@kscequinox.com