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Age to Age Kindergarten
A local school district and a nursing home work together to provide a unique intergenerational kindergarten program.
Identifying the Issue:
Loneliness, helplessness and boredom are not uncommon symptoms for nursing home patients. Rooted in a lack of companionship or social stimulation, these illnesses can be debilitating for older adults, and a predictor of deteriorating health. To address these illnesses at their root cause, the Windsor Place long-term care company in Coffeyville, Kansas has worked with the local school board to develop a number of intergenerational programs. These programs provide Windsor Place nursing home residents with meaningful interactions with school-aged youth every day.
Applying Innovative Solutions:
One of the most successful intergenerational programs at Windsor Place is the Age-to-Age Kindergarten. Opened in 2008, this all-day kindergarten class operates right in the middle of the nursing home, partnering children with elders, called “Grandmas and Grandpas”, to read, play, exercise and learn throughout the day. The school curriculum is typical for kindergarten; children learn to read, write, and count, and are also provided with opportunities to interact one-on-one with their peers so they will be ready for the next school year in a more traditional setting. During these activities, there are six to seven daily opportunities for interaction between the students and the grandparents built into every day. Dedicated activities like reading, story time, and dance, all incorporate grandparent participation. There are also opportunities for students’ families to get involved. Some parents sign up as “room moms” and many family members attend multigenerational events throughout the year, like the Family Day BBQ and the end-of-year celebration, all of which have children and grandparents in attendance.
In it Together:
Windsor Place has developed programming for the Age to Age Kindergarten program that benefits the young and old equally. The youth receive educational instruction to prepare them for elementary school, while also learning academic, social, and emotional skills from older adults who have ample time and life experience to share. The participating Grandmas and Grandpas feel that they have a purpose to wake up in the morning and are excited to welcome the children every day, starting with “Breakfast Buddies” in the morning.
According to Windsor Place’s Executive Director, all activities are designed to promote acceptance, encouragement, and affirmation between the generations. The joy of constant collaboration between the residents and the students is evident through the Age-to-Age program’s monthly newsletter column and photos which detail events like the annual Easter parade, ballroom dance lessons, exercise activities, family cookouts, and celebrations. Staff members recognize that intergenerational interaction has inspired many residents to not only enjoy themselves but build relationships that inspire them to do their best. For example, one staff member noticed that the residents “exercise harder when they are being watched by their special young friends.”
- Cross-sector partnerships are key: The public school system in Coffeyville (USD 445) has worked closely with Windsor Place to support multigenerational pilot programs. Once both partners recognized their programs were successful, it was an easy next step to work together once again on the more ambitious Age-to-Age Kindergarten. The funding allocated to the Age to Age Kindergarten by the school district is the same amount as every other Kindergarten classroom in the school district.
- Build on your success: When the program started in 2008, it did not have as many opportunities for intergenerational interaction as it does now. Every year, the program is able to build on its curriculum, learning what works, and incorporating new segments that increase cooperation and collaboration.
Dr. Robert Morton
Monte Coffman, Executive Director
620.251.5190 ext. 126