We aren’t just a child care centre. We are a community. Young and old, hand in hand, heart to heart.
While the concept of intergenerational programming has been offered for years, what would happen if we went beyond mostly planned moments, where the children arrive at a retirement residence and the seniors are “entertained” by watching the children engage in an activity? What if we embed opportunities for children and seniors to connect naturally through caring, responsive interactions that are part of a daily routine?
Thanks to funding from a private trust, over the next 4-years Andrew Fleck Children’s Services will be collaborating and learning with the Council on Aging of Ottawa, Families Canada and others to develop a demonstration site of best practices for intergenerational programming as a part of licensed early learning and care in 3 unique settings:
- Co-located as part of a senior’s village including long-term care
- On-campus beside an age-in-place residence
- Neighbourhood based in collaboration with a church congregation
This funding allows us to focus on providing quality intergenerational programming that recognizes the rights, and dignity of children and senior participants and share our lessons learned broadly.
We’ve been thinking about what this could mean from the perspective of the child and the grand-friend by imagining what will happen once we embrace this opportunity:
Aisha is just 3 years old, but she knows she will be seeing Mrs. Morrisey today. Mrs. Morrisey reminds her of her Grandma Mariam who still lives in Turkey. Aisha really enjoys the stories that Mrs. Morrisey tells her about when she was a child. Aisha and Mrs. Morrisey enjoy having tea parties with all of the dollies at the early learning and care centre. Mrs. Morrisey appreciates her time with Aisha, because she misses her own grandchildren whom she only sees on FaceTime.
Kevin is four and has discovered that Mike with the sleepy eyes and the white moustache, used to be a fire department captain. Wow! Now Kevin is drawing pictures of fire trucks. He loves listening to Mike’s stories. Curtis, the Registered Early Childhood Educator, is arranging for a field trip to the fire hall for some of the children, including Mike. In the meantime, the two friends are working their way through every fire engine puzzle that Curtis can find. Mike and Kevin, another grand-friend, are figuring out how they can build some wooden model fire engines, using some of the cool tools borrowed from the community Tool Library.
The Key to This Program
This isn’t about entertainment, it is about building meaningful relationships between the young and the old. Our Intergenerational Programs are where meaningful interactions and “playtime” are commonplace. It is key that the relationships are organic in nature and supported by the staff and educators. Together, children and older adults will decide on how they wish to spend their time. Some grand-friends will be directly involved with the children while others will be a support to the Educators or the Cook. Some children will snuggle with a grand-friend to be read a story, while others will greet the regular visitor by name and perhaps show them a picture they’ve made. That is the beauty of choice, that belongs to both the grand-friend and the child.
It doesn’t make any difference whether the grand-friend arrives on their own or is accompanied by a carer – they know they belong and play an integral role in the lives of the children and their families in our intergenerational centre. The families of the children are also involved, they receive updates and pictures and are well aware of the blossoming relationships between their child and the older adults.
Maria and I have been visiting the centre every Tuesday and Thursday for quite some time now. We have our own passcode so that we can arrive early in the morning before everyone else. We are used to getting up before the sun. We owned a bakery for 35 years. We wanted to continue to share our love of baking and continue to create smiles.
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2826 Springland Drive
Ottawa, ON K1V6M4