Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist who featured frequently as an author and speaker in the mass media during the 1960s and 1970s stated, “It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age.”
At a time when families often live miles, if not coasts or continents apart, intergenerational programs make sense. Statistics reveal that seniors are experiencing boredom and loneliness, while young children without local grandparents are missing out on learning to respect and have empathy for the elderly. Research and anecdotal evidence shows that integrated sites benefit both groups as well as staff.
“We know that many adults who are around young children report being more optimistic and less depressed and say they feel needed,” says Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a national organization that advocates for intergenerational programs and policies. Because of their beneficial outcomes, there are currently over 300 Intergenerational shared site programs in the United States, as well as a number of programs in other countries, with more programs in the pipeline for development.
Shared sites combine elder living situations with child and adult day care. Our project is designed for the Intergenerational Center to be next to a 35 bed Assisted Living Facility (ALF). The close proximity will serve two purposes.
- It has been documented that leaving one’s home is one of the hardest things to do for an elderly person and many elders in spite of their limitations are hesitant to do so. Spending days in the intergenerational center where they can go home at night, is a time limited solution. It is also less expensive and more workable for the family.
- Effortlessly transitioning from their living quarters to the Center, the residents of the ALF will be able to share in the activities of the Intergenerational Center so there will be familiarity and the potential for friendships to develop. When the time comes that the elders can no longer stay at home for whatever reason, moving to the Assisted Living facility on site would be a seamless transition, vs being strained and strange.
Our goal at Caring for our Generations (CG) is to follow the inspiration of St. Ann’s Intergenerational Center in Milwaukee and combine that direction with the Montessori method for both children and adults. St. Ann Center has a fully equipped art studio, where adults and children can participate in a variety of enjoyable projects. Guided by art therapists, they can try their hand at drawing, painting, jewelry making, ceramics, woodworking and more.
The Montessori method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood.
Dr. Montessori’s method has been time tested, with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world. Montessori education offers our children opportunities to develop their potential as they step out into the world as engaged, competent, responsible, and respectful citizens, with an understanding and appreciation that learning is for life. Each child is valued as a unique individual and their experiences with elder adults help to reduce ageisms.
In addition to aiding children, Montessori for Aging and Dementia has proven to be an innovative approach for dementia care that can be adopted for individuals or groups as a philosophy of care. The goal of the Montessori program is to support people living with dementia by creating a prepared environment, filled with cues and memory supports, that enables individuals to care for themselves, others, and their community. There are educators out there with extensive experience in working with this population and the Montessori method.
Here in Brevard County we have a robust music and arts community. The executive of Caring for our Generations, Judy Edwards is a working artist and has been involved with the arts community for 15 years. She has a degree in Communication Disorders and was trained as a Montessori Teacher. She has used the Montessori methods to teach youth, including the blind and special needs children, as well as her own.
The way we’ve designed the Intergenerational Center lends itself to music and the arts. Combining the community strengths with the Montessori method focuses on the abilities, needs, interests, and strengths of the person, while creating worthwhile and meaningful roles, routines, and activities for the child/adult within a supportive physical environment.
The National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) has launched the first-of-its-kind Directory funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, MetLife Foundation, and The Michelson Foundation. The Directory features arts programs serving older people and includes intergenerational activities in urban, suburban, and rural communities in a variety of settings, such as community centers, senior centers, assisted living, adult day care, arts institutions, and libraries. Their directory of creative aging programs in America list over 100 active programs.
Studies consistently show that intergenerational relationships can benefit both older and younger people in a variety of ways, from learning new skills to relieving loneliness. Interaction between seniors and youth opens up a world of opportunities for new experiences. By spending time together, seniors and young people begin to form meaningful relationships that pay great dividends for both age groups. Through steady exposure seniors often times feel invigorated from being around young people who are so excited and exuberant about life, and they may learn about new technologies and other elements of kids’ modern lifestyles.
Our proposed program strategies are planned to include: 1.) after school care for older children 2.) visits by theatre groups 3.) scouts 4.) interns from the local collages 5.) musical guests 6.) art shows with art made within the center and from outside artists 7.) dancing 8.) qi gong 9.) tai chi 10.) chair yoga 11.) meditation and 12.) storytelling, just to name a few. Judy Edwards is also a part of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Brevard Therapy Dogs, so the proposed goal is to also involve the dogs at the facility as collaboration.
In addition to our varied services, the property surrounding the center has plenty of room for gardening, walking in the woods and sitting out in a gazebo. With so many activities and open-air opportunities, Caring for our Generations’ goal to become the place where elders want to go.
Again, it’s important that we design programs to meet our identified population, to ensure services are available. This is imperative because, based on current statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association, 2016, 1 out of every 8 people over the age of 65 will get Alzheimer’s, and every day until 2030, 10,000 Americans will be turning 65 years of age until 2030. In preparation, Brevard County developers are retrofitting Assisted Living Centers and building Memory Care Centers for the 1 out of 8, which is great news for that population.
Our solution, by providing this shared site of an Intergenerational Care Center and Assisted Living Facility, provides an option for the 7 out of every 8 people who will not get Alzheimer’s Disease. Many of the ALF’s being built are of the cookie cutter variety and are catering to upper incomes. We intend to serve the middle class and those that are financially challenged, by keeping our rates affordable.
An older adult in New Hampshire who is experiencing an intergenerational environment states, “The days I come here are the best days of my week.”