Make time for Toddlers
We have all heard of the benefits of allowing pets to visit nursing homes. Some nursing home staff even bring their pets into work with them, while other homes allow residents to move their pets in with them. One American care home has taken this theory a step further, operating a preschool on the premises!
Based in Seattle, the private nursing home, known as “The Mount” opened its non-profit preschool in 1991. Five days a week, The Mount’s residents now see up to 125 children under five join the nursing home’s “Intergenerational Learning Center” (ILC).
Bringing generations together
There is plenty of anecdotal research about the benefits of allowing elderly patients and those with dementia to have contact with young children and babies. Small babies, in particular, have been cited for their calming effect on elderly residents. One woman whose speech had been limited by Alzheimer’s is said to have formed simple sentences whilst in the baby room; it has been suggested that proximity to a number of babies allowed her to access the part of her brain that she used to use to communicate with her own small children.
With an average age of 92, the Mount’s residents celebrated longevity. Although relatively healthy, the people living at The Mount suffered from mobility problems and needed high levels of care. Wanting to create “A vibrant environment where people come to live, and not die,” and bearing in mind numerous research studies that show the physical and psychological benefits of positive social interaction, the ILC was, to staff at The Mount, the obvious thing to do.
From a scientific perspective, it is known that, as a naturally social species, human beings tend to thrive on positive social contact. Studies have shown that social interaction can reduce loneliness and depression and slow mental decline. It can also reduce blood pressure, and the risk of disease in elderly patients. What’s more, intergenerational socialisation is proven to lead to greater satisfaction, more smiling and an increase in conversation among older adults.
What can you do?
ILC teachers at The Mount have seen a clear benefit in taking children to visit the residents, where they interact for up to an hour at a time. Residents are also welcome to observe classroom activities in the learning areas. We are not suggesting that you open a nursery in your local nursing home! However, if someone you care about is in a nursing home and you have younger children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, try to take them to visit as often as you can.
Often, leave children behind because they will be messy, noisy, or fractious. What parents can forget is that what to us is noisy, is to many, a welcome distraction; a reminder of the vibrancy of youth. Remember not to stay too long and to respect the other residents; when taking younger children, go with another adult so that, after 20 minutes – an hour (The Mount’s tried and tested times), the little ones can be taken somewhere else while you finish your visit.
If you are in a nursing home and don’t have young relatives, you could ask your nursing home to contact local schools and invite their school choir to join you for a performance. There are plenty of ways in which you can get involved with your community and make your private nursing home even more comfortable and enjoyable.
For more information about the nursing homes in your area, or for help finding private nursing homes that suit your needs, contact us; our experienced team is on hand to help.