Assisted living and retirement communities across North America have reevaluated the ways in which they provide care and stimulation to their residents and the results have been incredible. One strategy has been to create a shared space for both seniors and students – ranging from elementary to college – to interact and learn together in assisted living.
This intergenerational atmosphere is not only a great use of often-scant resources and space, it is also beneficial for the overall wellness of both the seniors and students. Stanford University states, “when older adults contribute to the well-being of youth, it cultivates a sense of purpose and extends benefits both ways.” Read more about the benefits that seniors and students receive when learning together in assisted living.
How Seniors and Students Learn Together
Experts also agree that an intergenerational space is beneficial for both seniors and young people, because it offers “opportunities for continued learning and improved quality of life for the elderly, as well as for young people and students to engage with a diverse range of types of people.”
The Life Care Centre in Red Bank, Tennessee, is an example of an intergenerational space in action. The Life Care Centre has welcomed middle-school age students several times a month for the past year to interact with residents and “learn alongside them.”
The “iGen” program, as it has been dubbed, is rooted in the same values that European intergenerational centers have been offering for decades. Some of the stimulating activities the residents and students enjoy together include:
- Conducting research for history projects
- Creating maps
- Eating lunch
- Programming robots
- Taking reading tests
Providence Mount St. Vincent, a long-term care community in Seattle, has witnessed first-hand the remarkable impact their intergenerational program involving students has made on one resident with advanced Alzheimer’s disease: according to the Director of the center, the resident whose speech was normally incomprehensible:
“…Was able to speak in complete, fluid sentences the moment she was wheeled into the baby room. You could immediately see that she had accessed some part of her brain that had raised several kids.”
The Ways Seniors and Students Benefit From Their Relationships
CNN shares in an article that interaction between seniors and students improves the quality of life of assisted living residents in a variety of ways, including:
- Improving communication and language
- Improving overall mental wellness
- Increasing mobility
- Lowering levels of dementia and memory loss
- Reducing depression
Fay Garcia, a 90-year-old resident interviewed for the piece summed up her experiences interacting with the two and three-year-old pre-school students, saying: “It’s like someone comes in and turns the light on.”
The residents aren’t the only ones to benefit from the intergenerational interaction – the children also gain valuable experiences and learn compassion and empathy. The Atlantic states that students who engage with seniors are less likely to exhibit ageism, have enhanced personal and social development, and are “prone to feel more comfortable around those with disabilities and impairments of all kinds” than other children their age who have not engaged with seniors.
Seniors and students can come together in many ways, but one thing is certain: the quality of life and livelihood of seniors in assisted living is greatly improved by the meaningful engagement with others.