Each month during the school year, The Saybrook at Haddam’s Safe Harbor Memory Care community opens its doors to an energetic band of happy, smiling faces belonging to children from the Little Village Preschool in nearby Moodus, Conn. These children eagerly rush off their bus and come into our “neighborhood” to listen to stories, sing songs and help us with craft projects. It is a true joy to hear their little voices and watch their little hands hard at work. Last month, we had the added treat of watching the children practice their “graduation” ceremony and tell us their hopes for the future.
It’s extremely therapeutic for residents who “perk up” when the children enter the room. Some residents take an active role reading and helping complete crafts with the kids, while others simply enjoy watching and listening to the happy children while they sing and play. Either way, everyone who takes part in this program enjoys many benefits.
This program with Little Village Preschool seems to be part of a nationwide trend among educators who are including older citizens into their learning plans. Many preschools and kindergarten groups are making visits to places like The Saybrook at Haddam, or they are inviting seniors into their classrooms to be book buddies or helpers for a day.
While the importance of intergenerational connections may seem obvious, there is some formal research to illustrate that older adults are very important role models for children and that children need the influence of older adults in their lives (and vice versa). The Family Studies and Human Services Department at Kansas State University studied this issue and concluded intergenerational programs do create positive attitudes toward the elderly through quality interactions between children and older adults.
“We carefully plan appropriate activities that both seniors with memory illnesses and preschoolers can enjoy together with little stress and lots of fun,” said Ann Bertini, director of recreation at Safe Harbor. “Over the months that these visits have been taking place, we found they have become a highlight for many seniors, for the children, and for each of us who works here!”
Ann adds that this intergenerational program helps Safe Harbor truly become an environment where seniors with memory-related illnesses can thrive. Sharing these types of social programs builds friendships, creates special moments, and promotes an important culture of kindness and caring – which is the backbone of the community.
To schedule a private tour of Safe Harbor Memory Care and The Saybrook at Haddam, please click here or call us at 860-345-3779.