Diamond House Personal Care Home in Warman is a beautiful care home with a very special twist. It is also where you will hear the joy and laughter of the three and four year old children of Little Learners Preschool. Preschool classes take place several days a week throughout the home, much to the delight of the residents.
Kelvin Ooms, Diamond House (Golden Health Care) Home Administrator, praises the arrangement. He says, “Every senior care home should have a preschool. The interaction between the two groups creates an acceptance that is phenomenal.” He explains how hosting the children in the care home brings a youthful vibrancy and excitement that has a visible effect on the senior residents. “Even though they may start their day feeling a little sluggish, being surrounded by the laughter and play of the children brightens their faces and gives them a reason to smile and laugh.” Opportunities for spontaneous interaction are plentiful as well as planned activities, games and exercises that the two groups can do together in various spaces around the home. Occasionally the children are encouraged to visit residents in their rooms to spread cheer and share hugs and high-fives. Ooms says, “It takes a special kind of individual to run a preschool. Candace (Clayton) and Cindy (Hrapchak) go above and beyond and have taken such a special interest in the residents. They make a point of going to the residents and inviting them to join the preschool activities.”
Even though they may start their day feeling a little sluggish, being surrounded by the laughter and play of the children brightens their faces and gives them a reason to smile and laugh.” Kelvin Ooms, Home Administrator, Diamond House
Two seniors we had the opportunity to speak with have taken tremendous interest in the preschool children and love being part of the fun. Grandma Susan enjoys the children very much and claims they bring a feeling of vitality to her life and are a reminder to be open and carefree. When asked how she feels about the children, she says, “I love them!” And the children love her, too. When Grandma Susan had an operation a few months ago, the children made her a card that was given to her at the hospital. Receiving that gesture of cheer brought her so much joy. Another senior resident, Grandpa David, makes a point of being outside the front door, rain or shine, even on the coldest winter days bundled up in his winter jacket, greeting the children with a smile and high-five as they come to preschool class. He loves the interaction and having a chance to have a little visit with each child. “I’m the greeter. Wal-Mart has a greeter, so does Diamond House!” he says. If for some reason Grandpa David isn’t there to meet the children coming in, they notice and will ask where he is as they miss his smiling face and jovial greetings.
It’s easy to imagine how intergenerational activities and meaningful social engagement enhances health and well-being for the elderly. They typically welcome worthwhile, productive activity and co-operation helping to give them a sense of purpose in their lives. They are likely to feel less depressed, lonely or bored. Studies have shown that they may even experience lower blood pressure and delayed cognitive decline. Having the preschool in the senior care home bridges the generation gap, creating a sense of acceptance for both generations, especially for the children. Little Learners Preschool owner, Candace Clayton, explains, “The children may not have any seniors in their lives otherwise or may be only used to their own grandparents. By meeting the seniors in the home of varying ages, some of whom may have oxygen, wheelchairs, canes or walkers, they get used to all ages and aspects of the aging process and develop total acceptance.” She says that often when the children first meet the residents they are shy or timid but as they get to know them, relationships begin to flourish. Sometimes children have their favourite “Grandma” or “Grandpa” and will run to them and give them hugs or sit on their knee. The children revel in the adoration of the seniors and the co-operation enriches their lives in incredible ways. Not only does it improve their social and emotional skills, it greatly enhances their sense of empathy. Kids don’t notice signs of dementia the same way adults do. They don’t mind having to repeat themselves if someone asks them the same question they were asked five minutes ago. Small children are still learning what is normal behaviour, so even a resident with Alzheimer’s Disease seems like any other person to them. Sharing their preschool classes with seniors gives the children an invaluable opportunity to learn compassion and acceptance.
Magic happens when you combine the youthful vitality of preschool children and a senior care home. Compassionate, empathetic bonds and loving friendships are formed creating life-changing benefits for both the young and old. Warman is fortunate to have such a collaboration between Golden Health Care Diamond House Personal Care Home and Little Learners Preschool where the little ones bring a unique sense of vibrancy and fun to the home and to the lives of the residents.