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What Happens When You Put A Daycare Inside A Nursing Home?

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At Providence Mount St. Vincent, a nonprofit living care community in West Seattle, you'll find people of a certain age. That age is five or younger. The facility's Intergenerational Learning Center is a combination of a retirement home and a daycare where preschool-aged kids fill weekdays interacting with the elderly. The two age groups have a lot more in common than you'd think.

A child and a resident at the ILC’s Halloween parade.

A Rewarding Environment for All

With an average age of 92, the residents of Providence Mount St. Vincent—known affectionately as "the Mount"—need considerable assistance to live out their day-to-day. Human contact is a rare but essential thing for residents of senior centers, as regular positive interactions with other people is linked to better health in older people, whereas social isolation has been associated with an increased risk of death. The children's presence, then, brings a vivacious liveliness to a community of seniors who need it most. Not only that, but it helps normalize the natural life cycle and aging process for children, which could foster empathy and reduce age-related bias. As administrator Charlene Boyd put it in an interview with PBS: "It's putting high-quality child care in a setting that link old and young together, making the magic between these two ages together, bringing joy to the residents and joy to those young children. It's just like this magical formula that happens every day."

But these generations are hardly opposites. As Providence Mount St. Vincent says of the program, "Residents with dementia or Alzheimer's disease find it is easy to visit with the children because the conversation is light and short. Both generations tend to live 'in the moment.' That's why they enjoy each other so much."

A resident and a preschooler at the ILC.

Childcare Accessibility?

The atmosphere at Providence Mount St. Vincent also isn't just meant to be an innovative new approach to both daycare and elderly care. The need for affordable and accessible childcare has been a common discussion in U.S. politics for a while now. This could serve as a groundbreaking example of a win-win solution. Given Providence Mount St. Vincent's success, the future studies they will undoubtedly ignite, and the hearts and minds they've already touched around the world, you shouldn't be surprised to see more intergenerational learning centers pop up around the country. In fact, we might someday see facilities opened specifically for this reason.

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