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When elder care and child care come together, magic happens

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






Day care facility inside retirement home gives kids love and the elderly a beautiful purpose

This is one of those ideas so genius it makes you wonder why no one has thought about it before.

Why not combine child care with elder care? The benefits to both the kids and older adults are incredible.

It’s already happening at the Intergenerational Learning Center in Seattle. There, day care kids come together with the more than 400 elderly adults who live there to sing, dance, make art, tell stories and just play together.

For their part, kids get to spend the day with adults who have the time to lavish attention on them. At the same time, the kids get valuable lessons in what the natural aging process looks like, and their anxiety about being with older people is eliminated.

The retirees get that sense of play and energy only kids can bring into your life. But most important, the kids give the older adults a purpose — someone to share their stories with, someone to inspire them to move around and get physical activity, someone to love and a sense of self-worth.

The parents of these kids are naturally the ones I'm most excited for. Because they know that when they drop off their precious baby for the day at the Intergenerational Learning Center, they will be more than just supervised — they will be loved and adored.

And we're going to need practical solutions. With 72.1 million elderly people expected in the U.S. by 2030 — more than double the number there were in 2000 — as a society, we're going to need to figure out how we're going to take care of kids and aging parents at the same time. Combining elder care and child care looks like a win-win solution for everyone.

Don't just take my word for it. Evan Briggs is a filmmaker who has made a trailer for a documentary on the Intergenerational Learning Center and has even launched a Kickstarter page to get a full-length film funded.

"Present Perfect explores the very real experience of aging in America—both growing up, and growing old," Briggs writes about her film. "It was filmed in a preschool housed completely within a retirement home, powerfully capturing the subtleties and complexities of the young children's interactions with the elderly residents, while challenging us to consider what we're doing--and what we’re not--to prepare future generations for what’s to come."

Here's the trailer. It’s really beautiful. And fair warning, you might want to have some tissues handy.

More on kids and the elderly

Teaching teens to honor the elderly
The Sandwich Generation: Taking care of your parents and your kids
Preschool vs. day care: Which is best for your child?

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