Retirement Community, Childcare Center Share One Campus, One Goal, Many Smiles: A Look at Inter-generational Engagement

July 27, 2015

You may not expect to encounter a kickball game or the sound of hammer and nails in an assisted nursing facility, but that's exactly what was happening on the campus of Piedmont Crossing, a local 60-acre retirement community.

Frequent visitors to the facility are 3- and 4-year-olds from Kids Only, a five-star childcare center which operates on the same campus. As many as 30 preschoolers spent about two hours during the morning at the assisted living facility.

Hazel, a kindergarten teacher for 30 years, seemed to enjoy the visit the most.

She caught a ball and tossed it to kids who stood inside a circle of wheelchairs during an indoor kickball session.

"Catch it," she encouraged them.

They did, but every now and then so did an older participant.

The children didn't seem to think there was anything unusual about having playmates who sat in wheelchairs or used oxygen.

"Kick it!" said Activity Director Penny Jacobs, who cheered when a wheelchair athlete propelled the beach ball forward.

No matter what their participation level both elders and youngsters enjoyed the bustle of activity, which included a craft session that followed recreation.

Kids Only Director Lori Rierson feels that the intergenerational activities, which have taken place the entire time that the daycare has been part of Piedmont Crossing, provide joy to both sides. She said the children can't wait to find out what activities are slated during their mini field trips to visit the residents.

"I think it's real interesting," said a Piedmont Crossing resident. "They need someone to help them."

After the kickball game staff from both facilities, along with volunteers, invited participants to choose whether they wanted to paint ceramics or build a wooden truck from a kit.

Jacobs feels that visits from the children do much to stimulate her residents. On alternate days, 30 children from Bethany Stepping Stones come to visit.

"It's just wonderful," said Jill, a volunteer. "They have a lot of energy. I just enjoy watching them play together. It's a family-type environment because they can't always have their grandchildren here."

When a gentleman walks in after the craft session started, she invited, "Do you want to paint ceramics or build a monster truck? Monster truck is real popular right now."

"I know how to hammer nails," said one 3-year-old craftsman. "I'm going to ride this truck up the road."

A resident who caregivers refer to as Mr. Mike doesn't normally talk much, but after completing his monster truck he broke into song, belting out Johnny Cash and June Carter's version of "Temptation."

"Good job! Yay!" said Jacobs.

Mildred Koontz, who lives in a nearby apartment but comes to visit her husband daily, also enjoyed the activities.

"They're fun to do, but I can't do them all," she said. "But I just enjoy watching them."

A slew of color choices awaited eager ceramic crafters in a milk crate.

Pat Cheek hummed "Church in the Wildwood" as she applied white and red paint to her project.

At the same table, twin brothers teamed up. Brady painted the engine for a train while his brother Blake finished the caboose. Some of the paint landed on the artwork.

Cheek removed a bit of paint from her fingertips with a wet wipe.

One small artist sat on the floor and daubed the paint onto her fingertips, giving new meaning to the term "finger painting."

Jacobs is always on the lookout for craft items or game prizes. She is grateful to area Lowe's hardware stores which donated the kits and hammers.

When it's not so hot, there's an outdoor playground built to accommodate the various ages.

"The residents light up," said Shaylyn Ladd, Director of Public Relations for Piedmont Crossing. "Whether or not they participate they stop what they're doing and watch. They get up and have a purpose for the day."

Mccala Munger of Kids Only added, "All that matters is that we had a fun day."

Both Piedmont Crossing Retirement Community and Kids Only Childcare Center are programs of United Church Homes and Services. For more information, please contact Director of Public Relations Shaylyn Ladd at 828-465-8028 or [email protected]

Credit: Article was written by staff writer Debbie Hightower of Thomasville Times in Thomasville, North Carolina.