I learned a lesson yesterday, on how challenging caring for our elders are. My 91 year old friend and I had a lovely visit with my therapy dog and we just finished making plans to go out next week to celebrate our recent birthdays which are a week apart.
I had just helped her move from a wheel chair to a walker and she was fine, and still standing. I was moving the wheelchair out of the hallway when I heard her say, ‘I can’t unlock the break.’ In the exact moment that I turned to help her, she lost her balance and down she went, landing on me, which took both of us to the floor. Things went from fine to trouble, in less than a second.
We pressed her button and help came. It took 3 med-techs to get her up. What if she was living alone and lost her balance?
The lesson learned is that it only takes a second.
In my travels around the community, I often run into people in their 50’s or 60’s who are exhausted. In conversation, I discover that they are carrying on with their own lives, and caring for their elderly parent(s). The proposed Intergenerational Center is a ray of light and hope for them. But, it is not built yet. Everyone admits it would make their situation more tolerable. They want to care for their parent(s) who are in their late 80″s and 90’s, but for various reasons, it is challenging.
In the latest conversation I had, we ended up with, ‘ but where are we all going to go? ‘ We, the children of the elders. We don’t want to be in their situation but there is no place for us that is acceptable. We don’t want to end up in a nursing home, and most of us won’t be able to afford an Assisted Living Center. We don’t want to be surrounded by other old people.
And the problem is: there are a lot of us. It appears that we baby boomers have our heads in the sand, but we are invincible, aren’t we?
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Lying on the floor pretending to roar like a lion can do wonders for an elderly man’s well-being. That’s not a scientific fact, but it was one of the surprising and memorable moments we observed while making a television program which introduced a group of very young people with residents of a retirement village.
The impact of young children and older people sharing daytime care facilities has already been shown to be generally positive. But this was the first time an experiment was undertaken within the UK to measure the impact of inter-generational interaction on the health and happiness of the older group.
Ten four-year-old children and 11 people in their late 80s were brought together for six weeks in a new nursery set within a retirement community in the city of Bristol. Before we started, the elderly participants were measured on their cognition, mood and depression, as well as physical abilities including balance and the ability to get up and walk (“Timed Up and Go”). These measurements were taken again at three weeks and once more at the end of the six-week programme.
The programme consisted of a timetable of activities in which the two generations were given time and space to engage physically and socially. It included games, occasionally requiring individuals to get down on and off the floor, walking outdoors, picnicking and participating in indoor activities using a variety of craft and art work. The final week also included an inter-generational sports day and a short theatrical production.
After three weeks, the halfway point, there were noticeable improvements in the residents’ measurement scores. Final measurements revealed significant improvements in the majority of metrics, with 80% percent of residents showed improvement in the “Timed Up and Go”. Grip strengths were up generally and activity tracker scores showed that the residents had become increasingly active over a 24-hour period. On sports day, one woman who could not recall the last time she ran, was seen sprinting off with her companion four-year-old in order to beat the competition.
At the start of the experiment, nearly all of the residents were identified as depressed, two of them severely. After six weeks, none of them was registered as depressed. They had completely changed their outlook on life and in their hope for the future. Even the most sceptical person within the group, who had been heard to say “I can’t really see it making any great difference to us”, admitted that the children had brought “great joy”.
This was not a scientific trial or a traditional academic research project. It was a social experiment involving a very small group of people. But the results showed marked changes in the residents’ physical ability and mood.
When you get very old you become less mobile, friends die, and you can’t get out to meet people. If you live in a care home, the only younger people you see every day are staff. That’s why depression is the epidemic of old age – and it’s important for us to present opportunities for them to meet young people.
Children are open minded. They love attention and take an interest in adults. At the same time, children learn quite mature skills from adults, so this inter-generational engagement is reciprocal.
You can’t cure arthritis completely, but you can increase confidence and, with the help and encouragement of the children, we saw our older folks doing things they never imagined they’d do again – jumping, dancing and rolling around on the floor.
As a consequence of our television experiment, significant developments are underway within the trust which took part in the program. Contact with the children and their families has been encouraged and continued. They are investigating additional ways to increase socialisation of the residents with surrounding communities. And plans are even in place to build a permanent nursery in one of the trust’s homes.
Many older adults live depressed lives in isolation with sadness, hopelessness, and negative feelings toward the self. This experiment has shown that, within a short timeframe – and where people share a similar vision of intergenerational mixing – it is possible to bring about significant enhancement in the well-being of older people.
Children and adults who play together discover a world beyond themselves engendering respect for each individual’s knowledge, strengths and values. Both learning and enjoyment soar as they play.
Research shows that children who play with adults demonstrate greater creativity and higher levels of language and problem solving skills than when playing solely with other children. Additionally, infant and toddler play is more sophisticated with adult partners. Engaging with adults supports optimal cognitive and social emotional development.
For older adults, play has psychological and health benefits, reducing stress, promoting relaxation and giving perspective to the demands of life. Building and maintaining relationships via play is associated with better mental health, less disease and disability and increased survival. During play, intergenerational shared site facilities observe positive changes in mood and higher engagement even among frail elders.
Yesterday, I was walking my dog and met a very pleasant 72 year old gentleman. In conversation while petting the dog, the proposed Intergenerational Care Center came up. He was surprised to hear about it, but shared his joy in spending time around children.
He seemed to have a bit of an aha moment and then commented that we are living so long now, way into our 80’s, 90’s and even 100’s. Where are we all going to go?
Wendy Schmitz, For USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinPublished 3:30 p.m. CT July 13, 2017 | Updated 3:30 p.m. CT July 13, 2017
“What will it mean for all of us to grow up, live and age in a society where half the citizens are over the age of 50? That reality is closer than most of us are willing to imagine. Never in human history have so many lived for so long — and not just in the U.S. It is a global phenomenon ushering in a social transformation.”
This was the introduction to a one-hour documentary, “Coming of Age in Aging America,” presented by American Public television and shown at the 2017 Global Intergenerational Conference, which was held in Milwaukee in June.
I was inspired to rethink the third stage of my life after facilitating the Aging Mastery Program, where I learned about the gift of longevity and the opportunities that abound in our community for the over 50’s to share their time, talents and expertise. When asked to present the Intergenerational Connections component of the AMP class during a roundtable session at the Milwaukee conference, I was thrilled.
Attendees traveled from 11 different countries to hear from longtime experts in intergenerational programming, policy development and practices. It was an opportunity to meet others who are passionate about making the world a better place for ALL ages. A young woman from Australia told me that she is the only person in her community interested in programming across generations. She came to the conference to find encouragement to carry on her mission.
There was positive energy and enthusiasm at this conference, many inspiring stories and role models such as the story of Victoria Gray, a grandmother who raised seven grandchildren and went on to fight for Grandfamily rights at the federal level, influencing federal law. Sen. Tammy Baldwin told how she was raised by her grandparents, the struggles they had with the health system when she was gravely ill as a child and how that influenced her work in the Senate.
Workshops were so interesting it was hard to choose. I learned about Intergenerational Olympics from San Diego County and the compelling stories of relationship building amongst seniors and third-graders. I attended a three-in-one presentation to learn more about capturing personal histories and sharing meaningful stories across generations. I can put into practice what I learned when we resume our work with the IDEAS Academy this fall.
The most exciting information for me came when I attended a session on Intergenerational Living projects. There are innovative things happening in our country and around the world. Meeting a young graduate student in architecture from London gave me hope that the future is bright. We learned about a project in Washington, D.C., where seniors share an apartment building with young single mothers who have aged out of the foster care system and have developed a caring community. A community in New Orleans places wounded warrior families besides understanding seniors.
Tired but fired up, I returned to Sheboygan committed to the process of making Sheboygan an Age Friendly Community for all generations.
What a great idea! Choice in Aging Adult Day Health Care services has opened the Choice in Learning Montessori Preschool and Child Care, creating an “intergenerational learning” campus, at 490 Golf Club Road, in Pleasant Hill.
Choice in Aging (formerly Rehabilitation Service of Northern California) offers programs that include adult day health care services for frail adults, elders, and people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Upon learning the neighborhood Fountainhead Montessori Preschool would be closing, Choice in Aging welcomed this golden opportunity.
“The Choice in Aging board of directors saw an opportunity to provide additional service to our community and took quick action to help these parents ensure their children have continuity of care and education,” said Debbie Toth, CEO of Choice in Aging. “In doing so, they also seized the chance to create intergenerational programming for seniors and children.”
The new preschool center opened July 3, and is currently enrolling children ages 2-5. Students will be cared for by the same professional staff that served Fountainhead families previously. Site director Gina Velez has overseen the preschool for 25 years and will continue to manage the new program.
“Intergenerational programs are beneficial to our entire community and I am excited for this opportunity in Contra Costa County. As we face regional challenges in the Bay Area with limited resources, it is vital to look towards innovative programs like this that positively impact many people,” said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Contra Costa County.
To make this intergenerational dream a reality, Choice in Learning is calling on volunteers to revamp the facility with new playground equipment, furniture and a fresh coat of paint. Angel donor Nancy Gibbons generously offered to provide up to $15,000 in matching seed money.
Visit www.choiceinaging.org, or call 925-682-6330 to learn how you and your organization or business can help.