Each week Doylestown Health's Children's Village preschoolers deliver a happy burst of energy to the long-term residents of Pine Run Health Center.
"Faces light up! The visit from the four and five year olds is the most anticipated activity of the week for residents," says Tracy Mullarkey, Ed.M, CTRS, Pine Run Health Center's director of Life Enrichment.
"The students are just as excited," says Children's Village teacher Kathy Weber, who partners with Tracy to plan enriching activities the older adults and children can enjoy together. After the activity, the residents and children snack together and read a story.
Making Friends, Helping Each Other
"Residents enjoy the levity the children bring and the opportunity to serve as mentors and friends to the younger generation," says Tracy. "It was extra special for me this year, as my son was one of the children visiting. He told me he really enjoys singing and making crafts with the residents. As a parent, I'm happy to see that interacting with seniors helps the children develop empathy, communication skills, problem-solving abilities and a positive perception of aging."
Empathy training for children before the first visit includes:
- Stories about grandparents
- Impressing the children with the oldest residents' ages
- A picture book to prepare students for what they might see, such as people using walkers and wheelchairs
- Trying on eye glasses with tape over the lenses to mimic blurry vision
- Exploring what it's like to be hearing impaired by placing cotton balls in their ears and playing whisper down the lane
"The goal of the intergenerational program is for our residents to feel part of the community by serving as mentors and friends to the younger generation," says Tracy. "We hope that the children will develop empathy towards our seniors and not have any fears or negative perceptions of our ages. There are many similarities that can be unifying between the generations, for instance, communication hurdles are common as is the desire for control.
At the end of the day, we want to provide joy to our residents and children."
"Building activities and games are colorful and engaging, and residents and children help one another. Children apply small craft materials because little hands can be more agile," explains Tracy.
Connecting Through Music
"Childhood songs like, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and holiday activities help seniors reminisce and put children and residents on common ground," says Kathy, "We often see the retired teachers come back into their old roles."
Learn more about Pine Run
About Pine Run
Owned and operated by Doylestown Health, Pine Run is a progressive, resident-focused community that is full of vitality and enthusiasm and promotes independence and wellness among its Villagers and Residents. Pine Run offers a full continuum of services at state-of-the-art facilities in Doylestown, PA, including a retirement community with independent living units on 42 acres of land (the Village); a skilled nursing facility and personal care facility (the Health Center), and a personal care facility on a separate campus in Doylestown (Lakeview). Thriving for over 35 years, Pine Run attracts exceptional people whose energies enhance life for everyone in the community.