Preschool in a nursing home is the best idea we’ve heard in ages

Sometimes, opposites do attract; and when they do we realize they’re not that different, after all. Take for example the Intergenerational Learning Center, a preschool in Seattle, where schooling of young children takes place within a nursing home with 400 elderly residents. Five days a week, the kids and nursing home residents spend time together by making music, dancing, creating art, having lunch, or just visiting with one another, ABC News reports. It’s a wonderful idea, and we’d love to see more facilities like this all over the country.

Nursing homes can be incredibly lonely places. Many who reside in nursing homes have few visitors, and the lack of social contact can breed loneliness and depression. The children help to alleviate that loneliness and lift the spirits of the older residents. “[Residents made a] complete transformation in the presence of the children,” adjunct professor at Seattle University Evan Briggs told ABC News. Briggs also happens to be making a film about the facility.

“Moments before the kids came in, sometimes the people seemed half alive, sometimes asleep. It was a depressing scene,” Briggs continued. “As soon as the kids walked in for art or music or making sandwiches for the homeless or whatever the project that day was, the residents came alive.”

The parents of the kids don’t just send them to the learning center just so they can spend time with the seniors. “It’s got a great reputation and great teachers,” Briggs told ABC News. “[But] one father told me that he especially sees [the benefits of the school] now that his own parents are aging.” As the school’s website indicates, the learning center offers a lot of benefits for the children including, “to learn about the normal aging process, to accept people with disabilities . . . to receive and give unconditional unbounded love and attention.”

Briggs’s pending film about the learning center is called Present Perfect. Shot over the course of the 2012-2013 school year, the film was funded directly out of her own pocket — though to fund final edits, she has launched a Kickstarter that has raised almost double her goal with six days left to go.

According to Briggs, another truly special element of the learning center is the way it encourages people to appreciate the moment. “It’s also about being in the present moment,” Briggs said, “something so many adults struggle with.” Briggs further explains this phenomenon on her Kickstarter page: “. . . with neither past nor future in common, the relationships between the children and the residents exist entirely in the present. Despite the difference in their years, their entire sense of time seems more closely aligned.”

That’s quite clear from the film’s trailer, which depicts the kids and seniors interacting throughout the school year. The love they have for each other is palpable, and it totally breaks our hearts in the best way possible. The kids and seniors are seen packaging sandwiches together, dancing, dressing up, telling stories, and just being with each other.

“You know how you love somebody and they give you something?” one tearful senior says in the trailer. “You know how hard it hits you on your heart? Big tears. Hot ones, running out of my eyes.”

Oh, our hearts. As the trailer notes, 43% of older adults experience social isolation. That’s why Briggs hopes that Present Perfect will start a conversation about seniors in America.

“Shooting this film and embedding myself in the nursing home environment also allowed me to see with new eyes just how generationally segregated we’ve become as a society,” she explains on her Kickstarter. “And getting to know so many of the amazing residents of the Mount really highlighted the tremendous loss this is for us all.”

We absolutely love this program and think it’s a brilliant idea. Thank you so much to those at the Intergenerational Learning Center, as well as to Evan, for starting a conversation about such an important issue that is so often overlooked. <3

Related articles:

This 102-year-old woman watches herself dance for the first time. Our hearts burst.

A preschool for adults exists and we’re so ready for our nap time

[All images via video]

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