My family has been looking for a community service project for a while and I thought that maybe my school could be a part of it also. I just thought that giving back to the people we love and support was not enough, so why not love all of the people in this nursing home as well. That is why I thought doing this as well would be a great idea. Thank you so much for your time. Thanks, Camryn

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I saw a brief clip recently that highlighted what Country Mouse detailed. The improvement in the outlook of the seniors and the increase in activity level was amazing. A real benefit for both the seniors and the youngsters to have that interaction and attention.
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Definitely check with the facility. I remember as a child going to a nursing home and tap dancing for the facility and going to individual rooms to visit those who could not get out of their rooms. I remember how happy they were to see me and they made me feel like I was a special.
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Wonderful story, CM. Before I moved in with my dad 2yrs ago, my newly married niece and her husband lived with my dad for 4yrs. Three of their four sons were born while living with him and now adore "Opa," who is the best story reader, broken-toy fixer, booboo kisser, and baby rocker. They learned to hold doors open and readily fetch things for him and give generous hugs and kisses. They do have to be gentle with Opa because his skin is so thin and tears and bruises easily. Also, these older folks have so much rich knowledge to share. My dad taught high school drafting, mechanical drawing, wood shop, and small engine repair, and farmed. My mother taught piano and grade school music, and sewed and knitted. Why not find out the backgrounds of residents and organize some group projects or homework help or lessons for older kids? Not sure what senior care facility regulations are, so just brainstorming.
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Checking with the facility first, the children could read to the residents, help them do small puzzles and perhaps write a letter to their family for them.
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Very enjoyable read, church mouse

Hoca has a group of visiting preschoolers and although I've never been there during the visit to see the interaction, I sometimes hear in the evening a bit of confusion about it - there were all these kids running about - maybe in a demented population it's more challenging to make a connection with a group

What I have heard that seems to work is when nursing students volunteer especially at mealtimes which can be very challenging - a little company and help makes a big difference
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Years ago a woman in our Church started an outrich to the Churches homebound. We all picked a name. We were to visit when we could. Send cards for special occasions. Take small gifts. Could be baked goods or candy. One of the Sunday School teachers did this with her Jr. High class. You could have lunch with the residents. Sitting a couple of students at ea table. There may be a small cost for lunch. I used to take my 4 yr old grandson the residents loved him. He would play ball
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When I was a kid, we made "favors" to put on the food trays at the Veteran's Hospital. Usually some paper craft - 3D. We loved doing them and occasionally got to deliver them.
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And the old folks can teach them what they did in WW2, hm?

Lord love us and save us.

Still! - Good teaching opportunity there, GA? At least the lass is willing to learn?
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I recently spoke with a candidate for city council, to decide whether or not I would vote for her. She seemed to be an aggressive advocate for change, so I asked her what she would suggest doing about an ineffective senior center that seemed to be focused only on planning trips or classes and provides no outreach to the resident seniors.

She enthusiastically said she wanted to integrate older and younger folks more, to create more interaction and sharing. When I asked for specifics, the only plan she had in mind was for younger people to teach older folks how to use tech gadgets. Duh.
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Not all old people love children, but some do. Just prepare the kids to be rebuffed and move on to the next oldster.
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Daughter 1 made me look it up, CW - I gave it a miss when it was broadcast because it's the kind of format that tends to bring me out in a rash. I visualise the audience sitting there going 'awwww' and making Roger Rabbit love hearts over their heads... ugh shudder bah humbug!

But. It's not even a new idea - there's Silas Marner, the lonely weaver, who gets landed with a little orphan (George Eliot wrote that, and she was wholly unsentimental); and Goodnight Mr Tom about the grumpy old embittered widower and the evacuee from an abusive home during the war. Then there were the 'anti-social' youths who'd taken to hanging around outside a state-run retirement home, and when approached and asked to desist because they were scaring the oldsters they explained that they liked being there because they - the youths, that is - felt safe there, and a beautiful friendship began. We *know* it works! So why do all our planning authorities and agencies keep separating out the generations..?
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CM, your post made my heart hurt and brought tears to my eyes. The thing that stands out for me is that it involved elders who weren't necessarily chomping at the bit to have a bunch of children thrust into their lives, but the "enforced" encounters caused a reawakening of something they didn't even realize they had lost... or perhaps had buried deeply to avoid noticing. The natural inclination of those with depression is to draw inward and separate from the world, from what I see too often programs at the nursing home cater only to those who are most physically and mentally willing and able, leaving the rest to just sit.... wallow?... in their familiar misery.
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When I ran the youth group at church we had three activities we did with the local nursing home/rehab facility that the kids and the residents enjoyed:

1. We got a list from the facility of residents who do not have family or visitors. We visited everyone on the list and asked them what they wanted for the holidays, then posted the list in church for people to sign up for. Then Christmas week we hand delivered the gifts. Everyone still remembers this! Many poignant examples for the kids...
2. Cookie night! We arrived with plain cut out cookies and decorated them for/with the residents.
3. Pet Night! We all paraded through the facility with our pets. One year we had two dogs, a cat, a hamster, a chicken and a goldfish!

Obviously prior approval is needed for all of these, but I found the managers of the facility were open to all my suggestions.
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I misread, so you want to help at a nursing home. Watch the video on youtube "alive inside". The Dementia and Alzheimers patients would truly benefit. As for the other residents, it could a nice bed throw, something to brighten up their area in their room, etc.
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My daughter her 2 children and her friend with her 3 children, made soup, bought styrofoam cups with lids and spoons, collected blankets and gave out to the homeless. She put a request on her Facebook page for pickups or meet-ups for the blankets. They bought like 20 cans of soup made a big pot and aided 40 homeless with a hot cup of soup and a clean blanket. Good luck.
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CM, excellent find, and thanks for sharing it with us. I never would have thought of such an "experiment", or project, and probably wouldn't have found anything wandering around the Internet.

I think this article hits on one of the reasons my father refuses to leave his home. His area is a small street in a lake community area. In the summer he interacts with the local Nicole Curtis (Rehab Addict on our DIY network) and her also DIY husband and they discuss how he rebuilt and remodeled the cottage in which they now live. He brings out the tools he's made and they marvel at the skill he developed and honed over the years.

He also interacts with another neighbor with a charming 5 year old daughter. And he walks to the lake to watch adults and children enjoying the beach.

In the winter there's less interaction other than seeing the neighbor who plows his driveway. But there are the MOW people, all year round.

Perhaps rehab and other care facilities should consider adding a visiting Scouts program, starting off with children being able to earn badges, and work from there.

Wouldn't it be great if more schools participated in this kind of program? And children are so much more fun and enthusiastic than someone who comes in with a stethoscope around her/his neck and begins listening, prodding and poking.
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Thank you CM.
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Personally I like the advice you see everywhere, from insecticide spray cans to polythene bags - "KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN." Hear, hear!

But these psychologist types know what they're about, and if their clever questionnaires say that to a man and woman their subjects' health, mobility, cognitive function and mental wellbeing had all improved after exposure to the little devils, then I have to accept that there may be something in it. What does not kill us..?
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Also thank you for sharing CM. I don't know how I would feel about such a program having recently been in rehab in a nursing home for a few days. I tend to like being alone and having peace and quiet and being able to interact with people when I feel like it.
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Countrymouse, thank you for sharing that review. It brought a smile to my face and a tug to my heart :)
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Great suggestions. It's my observation that the seniors just love to see children and animals. They love music too. I recently saw a company featured on a tv show on Animal Planet where they have PIGS as therapy animals. They specialized in Memory Care facilities. The residents just loved the pig. It was very friendly and able to do TRICKS too.
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According to one of the academics participating in this TV programme, combining preschool and elder care is "really common in the US." Is it??! Well whether or no, I hope you'll find this story inspiring...

Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds puts elderly people and youngsters together
It aims to see if the health of older people might be improved by association
The idea is being implemented in the UK — with the mission of proving it works
By Jenny Johnston for the Daily Mail
PUBLISHED: 01:16, 29 July 2017 | UPDATED: 02:59, 29 July 2017

Grumpy old man? The phrase could have been invented to describe 88-year-old Hamish, a retired insurance manager who is spending the final chapter of his life in a retirement home in Bristol. Or in ‘God’s waiting room’, as one of his fellow residents puts it.

Hamish doesn’t seem entirely chuffed to be taking part in a potentially ground-breaking Channel 4 documentary, which involves opening the doors of this retirement home to some new residents — all aged four. His face suggests it’s all rather ridiculous, and an unwelcome interruption to his attempt to read a newspaper.

‘I’m curious to find out what the children are going to learn from older people,’ he concedes. ‘One wonders what on earth the adults are going to be doing with these children. But it really isn’t possible for me to be actively engaged.’

He signals to his prosthetic leg. ‘I’m not really able to get down on my hands and knees and play games with them. One can’t run about and play football.’

Then he retires behind his paper again, and the outcome of this experiment — an attempt to see if the lives of older people can be improved by contact with the young — seems set. Or it does until a persistent little voice declares: ‘I’m making you a cup of tea.’

What an extraordinary piece of television Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds is.

Often programmes billed as social experiments are a let-down, a mish-mash of cod psychology and pseudo-science. This one has something that elevates it to a different level: the knowledge that, in our twilight years, any of us could be in the position of these residents — alone, lonely, waiting to die, and as far removed from vibrant youth as it is possible to be.

The two-part programme has a simple premise. Ten elderly volunteers, all residents of the St Monica Trust retirement home, are introduced to ten lively pre-schoolers who shift their nursery into the retirement home for six weeks.

Every day, the two groups — old and young — spend time together, and do tasks aimed at fostering a relationship between them. The goal? To discover if the health (physical and mental) of older people might be improved by such an association. In short, will the oldies get younger?

The idea that there are myriad health benefits from this sort of intergenerational approach is not a new one. In the U.S. and Japan there is a growing movement to combine nursery daycare with retirement care.

At the Intergenerational Learning Centre in Seattle, the very young and very old have been rubbing shoulders for years. There is now a two-year waiting list for children to access this daycare. They do music, dancing and art projects alongside what are effectively adoptive grandparents and great-grandparents.

Now the idea is being implemented in the UK — with the mission of proving it works.

We’ve been given access to the first programme, and it provides food for thought about how we treat our old — and our young.

Along with the TV cameras come an army of experts: doctors, psychologists and physios who are charged with assessing the health of the elderly residents at the start of the project, and again at the end of the six-week stint.

They watch remotely as the two sets get to know each other, and monitor the effect it is having on the older folk.

The most striking thing about the programme is the light it shines on how lonely old age can be. While St Monica’s seems like a fairytale fantasy of a retirement home, akin to a stately home set in vast grounds — it quickly emerges that the residents aren’t necessarily happy here.

Initial assessments are quite shocking. A third of the volunteers show signs of depression. A staggering nine out of ten of them say they find life dull. All but one are assessed as being in poor health physically, and are at risk of falling.

Hamish harrumphs away the ‘balance test’ — which establishes how long the volunteers can stand on one foot — insisting that he can’t do it.

Mary, an 86-year-old retired teacher, is asked how long she has lived in the home. ‘I’ve been told 11 years but I don’t remember.’ How does she fill her days? ‘I go to sleep. That gets rid of the loneliness.’ Her answer to whether she is satisfied with her life is piercing. ‘I’m going to die,’ she says. ‘Quite soon, actually.’

The retirees are lovely, but their situation seems bleak. Professor Malcolm Johnson, a gerontologist at the University of Bath who oversees the trial, sums up the problem. ‘Living with people whose lives have become containers of a multitude of losses — it’s not always fun.’

Can this rather pitiful state of affairs be reversed, however? Well, enter the children. Their arrival is joyous. They come marching down the corridor, arms swinging, singing If You’re Happy And You Know It.

The older folk hear them coming from a mile away. Their tranquillity is about to be ripped apart. ‘I’m Nelson and I’m four,’ announces the first cheeky bundle of energy. How much do these children know about old people, though? One girl, Eva, is asked what happens when you are old. ‘I think you go in a bungalow,’ she replies.

Some of the older residents are immediately charmed. Others less so. Hamish’s face is a picture of annoyance when he gets dragged into an exercise which involves making name tags.

What quickly becomes obvious is that there is little option but for these retirees to become involved with the children.

Books are hurled onto laps as they demand stories, and gnarled hands are grabbed. A little girl called Millie pokes Hamish’s prosthetic leg and declares it ‘spongy’.

He is almost forced into an explanation of how he came to lose it — he was hit by a lorry as a teenager. One senses he isn’t the sort to normally volunteer such information.

His young charge is charmed. ‘My favourite person is Hamish,’ she declares after their conversation. ‘One day he might have his leg back.’

Obviously there are ‘props’ to encourage the vital interaction between the groups. Key is a bank of incubators which are brought into the day room. They contain duck eggs. Or ‘new life’, as Professor Johnson says.

This sort of shared experience is a way, he says, of ‘creating engagement and exchange’. Both groups huddle round, with the older residents explaining to the little ones how the ducklings will eventually peck their way out. As the days pass, it is hard to tell who is more excited. When the fluffy ducklings eventually emerge, even hardened Hamish seems about to cry.

‘It was fascinating to see their little webbed feet,’ he exclaims. ‘These days I don’t really see anything new. This was a morning of sheer delight.’

The data gathering goes on all the time. The oldies are quizzed regularly on how they are feeling. Their fitness and activity levels are tested. They are made to wear monitors that track their steps, and how they are sleeping.

They are oblivious to much of this, however, because they are simply too busy singing Baa, Baa, Black Sheep or learning how to high five.

David, 89, is actually the 11th retiree. He wasn’t part of the original line-up but joined in when he watched from afar and decided he wanted to be a part of it.

A retired geologist whose expeditions once took him to the Arctic (‘David Attenborough stuff’), he is now the most inactive member of the group, unable to walk any distance.

Once his world revolved around his wife Nancy (‘everything a chap could look for and want. She loved all the things I loved. Eventually I got her to love me, which was the best thing I ever did’) but since her death following a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease, he has been alone. What an astonishing amount he has to offer a child, though, with all his tales of polar bears and wolves.

One day, as part of an activity designed to get the older people moving, he is partnered with little Eva for a stroll.

When he says he must sit down and rest, she urges him to walk further.

He tells her about the birds and the trees, and returns to the main house with a huge grin on his face, a man rejuvenated.

‘It’s not just walking, it’s exploring,’ he says of their little adventure. ‘I’ve rather lost my heart to Eva. She’s a real poppet.’ It’s heart-breaking and soul-soaring all at once.

Monica, 85, is asked on camera how she felt when a little boy ran into the room and almost flattened her by throwing himself into her arms. ‘I didn’t mind it at all. I quite liked it,’ she says.

One of the experts says these retirees often haven’t had physical contact with anyone for years. ‘It’s the sort of thing they don’t realise they have missed,’ she adds.

There is growing evidence that everyone benefits from this sort of interaction, and the news probably won’t come as a surprise to any grandparent who is lucky enough to have small children in their lives — and on their lap.

Academic studies show children become more articulate and confident if they are used to being in the company of older adults.

Certainly the parents of the children involved in this experiment seem delighted with how things panned out.

‘Eva made a very special connection with David,’ said the little girl’s mum Sophie Alker. ‘She was confident before, but I think she’s even more confident now. You can take her anywhere and she’ll bowl up to anyone and chat. I think it’s a great idea for both of them. I’d love to see it rolled out at care homes across the country.’

That’s a message echoed by the experts involved.

Dr Zoe Wyrko, consultant geriatrician at University Hospital Birmingham, who watched the bonds develop, says that as a society we must take steps to embrace the idea.

‘I can’t understand why the UK has been so slow about doing this,’ she says. ‘It is really common in the U.S and intergenerationality is vital. Older people say they feel better when there are younger people around.’

There won’t be hard scientific fact that this project has worked until the end of the second episode, once all the data has been gathered, but the oldies themselves seem in no doubt that their lives have been turned around.

By the end of week three, Hamish is not only engaging with the kids, but lying on the floor in the middle of them, playing a game of Sleeping Lions. His health issues seem forgotten, at least momentarily.

Two ladies called Sheila, 84 and Lorna, 92, have perfected the art of high-fiving, and proudly show off their new skills for the cameras.

But perhaps the most moving response comes from a lady called Zena, 77, who seemed so locked in her own unhappiness at the start. Dutch-born Zena was once a keen mountain walker, but had lost her sense of adventure when her husband, who is also a resident, was diagnosed with dementia.

She was assessed as the most depressed member of the group. Three weeks in, and her smile is wide (scientifically proven too; one of the tests involves facial tracking technology which assesses what the residents’ expressions tell us). Why? She thinks she has discovered the secret.

‘The most important thing in life is to be loved, and children have such a pure and positive love,’ she says. ‘To find a child’s hand in yours is one of the most moving things that can happen to you.’

Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds is on Channel 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday at 9pm

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Helpful Answer (7)

Both great suggestions! I've gotten some ideas from your posts.

My father's Senior Center reaches out in 2 ways that I know of:

1. Grade school children draw pictures, make cards and offer well wishes to seniors getting Meals on Wheels. The little drawings and good wishes are included in the meal packets. They may sign their first names, but MOW recipients never know who the children are or what school they attend. Similarly, the children don't know the MOW recipients, so there's not a compromise of any privileged information.

2. Volunteers provide seniors with friendly visits, just to see how they're doing, chat a bit, and provide some companionship. Children from school could be accompanied by an adult, either from the school, your family, or perhaps a local senior center (yes, it is a commitment of time at a few levels, but it's a good commitment).

There's another project in consideration but hasn't been finalized yet. It also involves friendly visits.

What you could also do is consider friendly pet visits, with pets that are docile and not afraid of meeting new people. This is definitely something you'd want to discuss with staff first though.

Some seniors can use help in crafts activities; if you have any crafters, you could discuss with an Activities Director the range of skills of the residents who usually participate, and tailor something to that level.

With the holidays approaching, perhaps you could create a wreath making class, something the residents could hang in their rooms. The rehab center we used to go to has a variety of wreaths, designs, or military insignia on the residents' doors.

Perhaps you could help them address holiday cards, or if you have extras, bring or donate them, then help residents prepare them. I don't know though whether there would be any consideration of personal information being compromised if the residents provide names of their friends and family for the card addresses, so this is an "if" project.

If you have a musical family, work on a musical performance. Residents typically love music.

Or just go around the facility and stop and visit; my experience is that most residents enjoy visits, even if they don't respond.

It may be that the visits become regular for school children and the residents, and bonds will form that benefit both over the months and years.
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Yes, I'd check with the facility to see what they need or what might work.

I know that our local church/school prepared a Christmas program and went to the facility to sing and present their program. They gave gift bags to all the residents. They really loved it.

Another time the school kids prepared a Veteran's/Patriotic program, where the kids dressed in the various military uniforms, (Navy, Army, Marines,, etc.) and they sang patriotic songs and gave a tribute to the Veterans who were residents. They also gave patriotic gifts of small flags, red/white/blue necklaces, etc. The veterans were so touched they cried.  
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Camrynwelty, sounds like a super idea. Best to call the nursing home and tell them what you have told us. Let them come up with ideas that they have used in the past that were successful.

A lot depends on the age of students. Grade school children tend not to sit still very long so something to keep them busy as not to overwhelm the residents.

Middle school/high school, the students can befriend a resident or two or three to chat sessions. Example my Dad grew up on a corn farm and was a major train buff. Plus he rode a horse to school every day. He could talk the ears off of anyone who would listen, and loved answering questions :)
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