It's estimated that as many as 43 percent of this country's elderly population experiences social isolation. Even though most older Americans do not live alone, a lack of personal attention and the sense of isolation brought on by institutionalization was widely reported. And, it's not just sad, it's cause for concern.
New studies are showing a correlation between loneliness and serious health problems. Depression, lack of physical activity and mobility, and mental acuity are all linked to feelings of isolation. Furthermore, some patients remarked that having only sickly people around for socialization was contributing to their depression.
Retirement home Providence Mount St. Vincent came up with an innovative way to help its older residents broaden their social network.
They opened the Intergenerational Learning Center, a childcare facility, inside the retirement home.
The Seattle-based home houses more than 400 residents living there full-time.
The program is beneficial for both the children and the elderly.
It gives the residents the opportunity to connect with the youngsters through activities like storytelling, arts, crafts and music.
It helps diminish the children's fear of the elderly and persons with disabilities.
Their time is a mix of structured and unstructured activities, all with the purpose of giving time and opportunity to connect.
There are often two or three full generations between them.
It's also wonderful for the older adults who never had grandchildren or have families far away.
Not to mention for the children who have lost their grandparents or need extra extended family support.
They forge deep bonds through their frequent interactions and everyday life together.
The children bring a welcome spark of life and creativity to the arts and crafts table.
And, they motivate the older residents to engage and stay interested in activities.
The children keep the residents active, but the residents, in turn, teach the children valuable lessons in patience and understanding.
The children range in ages from an infant program to a 5-year-old preschool program.
Many of the residents remember teaching their own children the very same skills they teach at the Intergenerational Center.
The children also benefit from having a more balanced ratio of adults to children.
The Intergenerational Learning Center is an inspiration for the future of elder-care.
To learn more, please watch the in-progress documentary about the program and consider donating here.
Credit: Bored Panda