Preschool Education is precious for many reasons.

Stamford children’s learning agency extends reach

 

STAMFORD — There was an unlikely gathering at a local museum for a field trip last week.

A group of preschool children and senior citizens gazed at pieces of art and browsed the natural history exhibits. The gathering at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich was the first joint trip between kids from the Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County and seniors from the Edgehill community — two Stamford-based organizations that have become strong partners in recent months.

The program is one of several initiatives CLC has led this year as part of a major rebranding.

The agency, now in its 114th year, is increasing its collaboration across the county at a time of declining support for early childhood education.

Besides cuts in state funding, there is uncertainty as to how the federal government will handle education since President-elect Donald Trump promised during his campaign to eliminate or drastically shrink the U.S. Department of Education.

“We’re committed to becoming less dependent upon government funding,” CEO Marc Jaffe said. “But having said that, it would be extremely difficult to liberate ourselves completely. There is a role for government to play. And certainly, government should be playing a role in helping to educate our youngest citizens who otherwise can’t afford to have a preschool experience.”

State and federal grants account for 70 percent of CLC’s $15 million budget.

The organization, previously known as Childcare Learning Centers, recently changed its name and logo. “Childcare” was replaced by “children’s” and “Fairfield County” was added to highlight the agency’s effect on communities outside Stamford.

“Childcare, in certain respects, is almost an outdated notion,” Jaffe said. “We’re much more disciplined and much more serious than that. We wanted the focus to be on children’s learning, not on childcare.”

CLC, as it will continue to be known, offers early childhood programs at eight Stamford locations and serves about 1,500 children every year, from infant to 5 years old.

It accommodates families of all income levels with sliding scale-based fees and scholarships. Children in surrounding communities with parents who work in Stamford are eligible to attend. The agency also sponsors the Greenwich federal Head Start program.

More than 86 percent of CLC’s children come from low-income families. In addition, about 70 percent of children come from immigrant households, where nearly 30 languages are spoken.

Jaffe said CLC’s work has never been more important. Jaffe said research shows early childhood education is vital to children’s success and health. According to the Rauch Foundation, 85 percent of the brain is developed by age 5.

“If you have an early childhood education, you’re much more likely to be reading at grade level when you’re in third grade, much more likely to graduate from high school, much more likely to get a job, more likely to be healthy,” he said. “For all of those reasons, it makes the most sense to support early childhood education.”

Another challenge the agency faces is the gradual reduction of the Care 4 Kids program, which Jaffe said has been “under assault.” The program subsidizes child care and preschool for low-income families, but the state last summer tightened eligibility requirements for new program applicants and stopped awarding new subsidies.

Mary Jane Garcia, who has two children at CLC, lost her Care 4 Kids eligibility after the changes. The Stamford woman said the cut has had “a great impact” on her life.

Fortunately, she said, she is still eligible for other, smaller CLC subsidies.

Garcia leaves her 3-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son at CLC’s main campus on Palmers Hill Road every morning before heading to work. She works at a doctor’s office for up to nine hours a day.

Garcia said the agency’s flexible schedule “definitely helps” her family. But besides the schedule and the “amazing teachers,” the Philippines native said her two kids have been learning French and Spanish and they “love going on field trips.”

Edgehill resident Joan Weisman said Thursday’s museum trip did not just benefit the children.

“It’s good for the spirits of both sides,” she said.

Through the CLC and Edgehill partnership, seniors also visit the preschoolers at least once a month to read, play together and share some of their talents and special activities. The kids have also visited Edgehill, which is next to the agency’s Palmer Hill Road site. On Halloween, for instance, a group of children visited Edgehill to sing songs and paint pumpkins with the seniors.

“The intergenerational relationship is really great,” said Weisman, chairman of Edgehill’s social action committee. “It was a really fun experience.”

noliveira@hearstmediact.com, 203-964-2265, @olivnelson

Instinctively I knew…..

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-11-51-53-am…..being a Montessori trained teacher from way back that it would be perfect in an intergenerational care center. Low and behold I found this one, of many, on the benefits of the Montessori method and the Elderly.

By Terry Hurley

In many cases, Montessori activities for the elderly help to keep seniors with dementia happier and more productive while boosting their sense of self-worth.

The Montessori Approach to Learning

The Montessori approach to learning is based on the educational theories of Maria Montessori, an Italian educator. This method places great importance on adapting the learning experience to the developmental level of the child. Learning takes place through repetitive, no-fail methods that are adapted to the individual’s specific needs. There is great emphasis on developing fine motor skills and concentration, and building self-esteem.

The following are several of the main principles of the Montessori method of learning:

Each person must be considered as a whole. All aspects of the individual are equally important and inseparable regarding his or her interests and needs. These aspects are:
Physical
Emotional
Cognitive
Social
Spiritual
Aesthetic
It is necessary to show and have respect along with a caring attitude for everyone, including oneself, all life and the environment.
A cooperative atmosphere, peer teaching and social interaction are important for learning to occur.
Learning takes place through sensory processes that include manipulating objects and interaction with other people.
Modifying the Montessori Method for the Elderly

Many nursing homes, elder care facilities and elder daycare centers are adapting the Montessori methods to their clients suffering from varying degrees of memory loss and dementia caused by conditions such as:

Alzheimer’s Disease
Stroke
Illness
These individuals are given meaningful activities that build upon on their remaining skills and abilities. The Montessori methods can also be used with individuals that have physical, mental or physical and mental types of disabilities. Activity programs that are Montessori-based help to give the elderly suffering from memory loss a sense of task completion and success. These programs often help to reestablish recognition skills and enhance an individual’s memory.

It is important that tasks are broken down into several smaller tasks, or steps. This helps the individual establish success and lessens the chance of forgetting a step. Key factors in having the individual achieve a successful outcome to an activity include:

Repetition
Positive reenforcement
Including as many of the five senses in the performance of the activity as possible
Examples of Montessori Activities for the Elderly

There are many types of Montessori tactile materials that can be used with the elderly including:

Puzzles
Reading materials that are printed in fonts that are large and easy to read
World flags
Letter recognition blocks

Caregivers often are able to find activities that relate to a former hobby, interest or job that the individual enjoyed in their earlier years. The activity still must be broken down into smaller tasks to ensure that the individual achieves success. If the task is still not possible, it needs to be modified until it is possible for the person to perform it successfully.

The following are several examples of how Montessori-based activities have been adapted to use with elderly individuals.

Practice buttons, hooks and buckles on a colorful piece of material using large-sized items
Practice opening a lock attached to a wooden box.
Matching plastic fruit they hold to pictures on a cloth or place mat.
Placing three different colored balls into matching cups. If the task it too difficult, one color of the balls and cups would be removed. If it is still too difficult, only one color would be used until the person was able to achieve success with the task.
Resources for Using Montessori Activities for the Elderly

Montessori-Based Activities for Persons With Dementia by Cameron J. Camp is available at Amazon.
The Montessori Foundation article titled Lost Skills Come Back: Montessori Method Aids Alzheimer’s Patients by Bea Mook.
As Montessori activities for the elderly become more popular, people will recognize the value and benefits of these programs. Many will initiate them into more facilities helping some of the elderly population that suffers from dementia to regain lost skills with a sense of dignity and pride.

Autonomy

Yesterday, I traveled to Lakeland, Fl for a meeting with the Architects at WMB associates and what a pleasure it is to be on the same page with what is in my mind to what they can do. Exciting!

From there, I went to Sarasota to met with Dr Elizabeth Larkin who wrote the book ‘Intergenerational Relationships’ and in the course of our conversation autonomy came up, and how it is the ‘key’ to interpersonal relationships with elders. No one really wants to be told what to do, especially at that point in your life.

How compatible the idea of a Montessori preschool is attached to elder day care as one of the principles of Montessori is independent thinking and the development of a child’s intrinsic nature. Autonomy again!

Who serves the caregivers?

Our intergenerational center by design will serve the caregivers first, then the adults who need care, and the children. Following below is a story by Rep. Grisham about the problems surrounding caring for the caregivers.
By U.s. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham / Democrat, New Mexico
Sunday, December 4th, 2016 at 12:02am

Diane Dimond’s series on court-appointed guardians is horrifying for any of us who are concerned about protecting our loved ones’ rights and independence as they get older.

Her series has served as a reminder that we must strengthen our long-term care system and support the 40 million people in our country who are family caregivers for seniors and people with disabilities who need assistance to live as independently as possible in their homes and communities.

Family caregivers work hard every day balancing caregiving with their personal and professional lives. But they need more than our acknowledgment; they need our support.

Every year family caregivers provide $470 billion worth of unpaid care, surpassing our nation’s total Medicaid funding for both health care and long-term care services.

Families want to provide that care, but they also do it because it is necessary.

Many people who need care cannot afford to pay for services that would help them remain independent, but they have just enough money to be ineligible for Medicaid and the support services it would provide. So their families fill in the gaps where they can, keeping their family member out of a high-cost nursing home.

I share that experience as a caregiver to my mom. I know the value of what family caregivers do, how they manage their daily responsibilities with the medical, emotional, physical and financial needs of their loved one. I also know there aren’t enough of us; we have a critical, growing shortage of family and paid caregivers in our country.

In 2010, there were seven potential caregivers for every person older than 80. By 2030 — when one in five Americans will be 65 or older – that ratio is projected to drop by almost half, to four to one. In New Mexico, the fastest growing segment of our population is people older than 65.

We must make a national investment in long-term care. And we need to grow a workforce that will help meet the needs of our population.

I have introduced the National Care Corps Act, which is one tool to shore up the system and our caregivers.

The National Care Corps Act would place trained volunteers in communities to provide non-medical care that supports family caregivers and those receiving care.

Creating a national service program is one strategy for enabling people to live as independently as possible while also supporting the millions who provide care on their own. This legislation will also provide volunteers with benefits, including educational awards, so they can further their careers and spur growth in a health care workforce that is in dire need of expansion. Through Care Corps, we will promote volunteerism and supplement the hard work of paid caregivers.

I can imagine the relief I would feel if someone visited my mom every day, drove her to medical appointments, read to her and listened to her stories. That kind of relationship – independent from the people she pays to perform tasks and the daughter who cares for her – could be incredibly meaningful for all of us.

I can envision volunteers gaining insight into the lives of seniors and people whose lives have been shaped by disabilities. Care Corps would give people an opportunity to build intergenerational relationships, creating space for a level of understanding and connection that is rare today.

This volunteer-caregiving concept is gaining support across the country; a broad range of organizations focused on the needs of caregivers, seniors and individuals with disabilities have endorsed Care Corps. More than 50 congressional members are serving on a new bicameral, bipartisan caucus that I co-founded to raise awareness about the need to support caregivers, create an environment conducive to reaching bipartisan solutions and build a sense of urgency to act.

I am eager to work with my colleagues in the next Congress so we can support our caregivers who give of themselves to protect and care for their loved ones.

Some Benefits

Intergenerational programming benefits the older adults who participate—and also benefits the youth participants and the community at large. The first intergenerational program of significance (in Cleveland, Ohio ), the Foster Grandparent Program, was created in 1963 in response to social concerns surrounding poverty. The organization paired lower-income older adults (ages 60 and up) with special needs children. The goal was twofold: to provide one-on-one support to the children while reducing the sense of isolation among the adults. Since then, intergenerational programs have expanded to address numerous social concerns.

Benefits: Older Adults

Older adults who volunteer live longer and have better physical and mental health—and older adults who regularly volunteer with youth “burn 20% more calories per week, experienced fewer falls, were less reliant on canes, and performed better on a memory test,” according to Generations United. Even when the adults were dealing with dementia or other cognitive impairments, they demonstrated more positive effects when they interacted with children (compared with participating in non-intergenerational activities).

Intergenerational programming helps older adults be productive and engaged with the community. As they interact with youth, they also learn about new innovations and technologies.

Benefits: Youth

Children who are involved in intergenerational mentoring programs are:

  • 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs
  • 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol
  • 52 percent less likely to skip school

They develop “skills, values, and a sense of empowerment, leadership, and citizenship … social networks, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, positive attitudes towards aging, a sense of purpose and community service . . . [and] good self-esteem.”

Benefits: Community

One of the major benefits of intergenerational programs, is bringing together diverse groups and helping to reduce inaccurate stereotypes as older adults and youth develop relationships with one another. They help to “build a sense of personal and societal identity while encouraging tolerance.”

Just because I haven’t been posting lately….

 

doesn’t mean that nothing is being done. Within the last month, we were officially granted our 501 C3 non profit status. I went to visit intergenerational Centers in Greenwood South Carolina which has been in operation for 16 years and in Jacksonville, Florida which has been open for 30 years. They both were thriving, safe, clean and the staff in both places were very supportive of the intergenerational philosophy.

I have been exploring funding avenues have made contact with the Department of Elder Affairs in Tallahassee who is supportive of our project. I have been working interviewing builders and architects to get a firmer idea on what this project will cost and what it will look like.

I also made contact with a Professor at UF Sarasota/Manatee who co-wrote the only book I found ever written on Intergenerational Philosophies. I will be meeting with her this week.

I am also pursuing contacts with Temple University’s Intergenerational Department and Generations United and their Intergenerational Departments. Plans are being made to go to the first International Intergenerational Conference in Milwaukee in June.

%d bloggers like this: