There is something quite unique about Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle that sets it apart from other senior living communities. Not only is it home to approximately 400 older adult residents in need of various types of care, it is also home to the Intergenerational Learning Center—a preschool that provides children and seniors the opportunity to connect and learn from one another.
The Intergenerational Learning Center was created in 1991 with the hopes that children would learn the value of acceptance, while also being nurtured. The Center also aims to encourage seniors to develop a deeper sense of self-worth and promote social interactions.
Toddlers to prekindergarten-aged children are placed into six different classes at the Intergenerational Learning Center. The children participate in art and music classes, as well as story time and exercise time with the older adults.
According to Marie Hoover, the director of Intergenerational Learning Center, interactions with the older adults has proven to be beneficial for the little ones, influencing them to be more open-minded.
“For the ILC children, interacting with the residents is simply part of their day-to-day life here and I think the way aging is ‘normalized’ for them may be the most important benefit they receive in this program,” Hoover said. “I’ve had parents call me years after their children have graduated from our program to let me know about some incident when their child was the first to warmly greet someone who happened to be in a wheelchair.”
The older adults at the Center frequently express their delight by the companionship the children provide.
According to Charlene Boyd, the Center’s administrator, “The children bring so much energy and joy to our residents. Many of our residents are widows or widowers and can become lonely. Their adult children may still be working, so they may not get to see them as often as they would like. Having the children be close by seems to make our residents feel as though they are still part of a community.”