A Preschool In A Nursing Home? You Might Be Surprised By The Benefits

Posted by GreaterGoodness

Filmmaker Evan Briggs believes that when you bring the elderly together with the very young you get “Present Perfect” — the name of her documentary about a preschool located inside a nursing home in Seattle, Washington, where residents with rich pasts interact with children full of the promise of the future. With no past or future in common, the exchanges between these generations are all about the present.

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A Sense of Community

The Intergenerational Learning Center, which includes children from 6 weeks to 5 years old, has been operating inside the Providence Mount Saint Vincent retirement home for 25 years. According to the trailer for the documentary, 43 percent of older adults experience social isolation, which can lead to depression, loneliness, and mental and physical decline. The idea to house the preschool here came about as a way to create a greater sense of community in the retirement home by eliminating some of that isolation.

According to CNN, the Generations United website reports that 500 similar programs exist in elderly care facilities across the country. Briggs hopes that her film will result in even more programs being implemented. She also hopes it will start a conversation about aging in America. CNN quotes Briggs as saying “There is so much wisdom and life experience that our elderly members of society have that we’re just not availing ourselves of, and that just seems like a huge loss.”

Benefits of the Program

During the school year, the residents and children interact five days a week around planned activities, such as music, dancing, art projects, lunch or story time. ABC News reports that Briggs saw a complete transformation in the residents when the children were around. “As soon as the kids walked in for art or music or making sandwiches for the homeless or whatever the project that day was, the residents came alive,” she said.

From the trailer, you can see the impact the exchanges have on both the older and younger participants. While packing sandwiches for the homeless, both the children and the older adults struggle to get the sandwiches into the baggies. It puts them on a more equal footing than they might be around younger adults. They share stories and songs, help each other, and grow from that experience.

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Sharing Special Moments

The film doesn’t shy away from the more difficult aspects of aging. When a resident dies, the camera captures the gurney as it’s wheeled out past the doors of the preschool. However, the always poignant and sometimes sweet, funny, awkward and heartbreaking moments between the children and the residents make it clear this is a film about the power of human connection, as stated on the film’s website.

You see one of those connections in the film when a little girl puts her hand on top of the back of an elderly woman’s hand. When the woman puts her other hand on top of the little girl’s, it becomes a game. You can hear them giggle as they take turns sliding their bottom hand out to add it to the top of the stack.

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Growing Up and Growing Old

Before making the film, Briggs had questioned how Americans think about aging and the elderly, and she wanted to examine it. When she came across the Intergenerational Learning Center, she became intrigued. Using her own resources, she spent a year filming at the school. She released the trailer as part of a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money for post-production costs. Her attempts to raise $50,000 garnered more than $100,000 as people were captivated by what they saw.

Both sides benefit from the cross-generational interactions depicted in “Present Perfect.” The elderly residents at the Mount benefit from the joy, laughter and renewed sense of worth they get from the children. The children reap the rewards of the love, affection and wisdom they receive from the residents. The children also learn about and become accepting of the aging process.

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