Senior people are particularly vulnerable to loneliness and isolation as a result of a loss of social contact - particularly with younger generations. However, the Intergenerational Learning Center at the Mount (ILCM) is attempting to alter that dynamic by opening a preschool in their nursing home. And it altered the course of everyone's life.
According to studies, 43% of older people suffer social isolation, which is strongly associated with loneliness, despair, and mental and physical deterioration. Additionally, many elderly feel lonely when they enter nursing facilities or when they lose a loved one and are left alone in their house for a long period of time.
As a premier childcare center, the ILCM's trained and compassionate staff fosters an atmosphere conducive to active learning via scheduled and unstructured activities. And contact with the elderly has an infinite number of consequences. Children at the center learn from their elders, how to accept individuals with impairments, and how to receive and offer unconditional love and care. Naturally, elders benefit as well.
Throughout the day, frequent contact with youngsters helps reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Additionally, it encourages them to participate in physical exercise via play with the children, allowing them to experience the energy and pleasure that children bring to their home environment. Participants develop a revitalized feeling of self-worth, the ability to impart information, and the capacity to act as role models.
Indeed, the effect was so profound that director Evan Briggs decided to chronicle it in a film titled Present Perfect. As she observed the center's activities, she was astounded to see how, despite their age disparity, the children's and elderly's "entire sense of time appears more tightly linked" than the "busy, harried, constantly multi-tasking adults."
As she says on her Kickstarter website, "over the months I spent shooting at the Mount, I saw many amazing interactions between inhabitants and children." Some were lovely, some uncomfortable, and yet others amusing – but all were devastating and heartbreakingly genuine.
A very memorable encounter happened during a morning visit between the toddler school and a group of seniors who had come to sing songs together. Everyone had just completed singing a version of 'You Are My Sunshine' when one of the residents shared a recollection of singing that same song late at night on a bus full of troops while fighting abroad during World War II."
According to the United States Census Bureau, 11 million individuals, or 28% of those 65 and over, lived alone in 2010. It raises mortality risk and contributes to cognitive deterioration and dementia. LGBT elders are twice as likely to live alone as heterosexual seniors. Chronic lung illness, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, decreased mobility, and depression are all significantly linked with social isolation.
Simply encouraging elders to participate in more social activities is insufficient. The Intergenerational Learning Center has devised a unique, heartwarming, and clever solution to this problem.