Intergenerational care brings together children and older adults who need care during the day and arranges opportunities for the two generations to mix. Advocates insist the interactions improve the quality of life for both children and seniors.
Milwaukee has two such centers – the newer St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care on 24th and North, and the original, in St. Francis. When you walk into the original, you see a large atrium. It’s mainly a garden, complete with birds, but there are also play areas for kids, places to sit and a reading nook.
When older adults arrive at the daycare, they head to the right, while the children to the left. But Director of Marketing Cathy Feldkamp says there are plenty of times they mix, including at dance parties.
"My favorite days at St Ann’s Center are Fridays. What we have is… you walk under a chandelier, the whole back window is light spilling through and we usually have a performer with a guitar in there. So there will be chairs lined up on either side of the columns with adults who maybe can’t get up and dance or adults that are in wheelchairs bouncing their head to the music and in the center you have ages dancing together. So, you’ll see an older adult that maybe would be sitting at home alone holding hands with a 2-year-old rocking back and forth to the music, and you see the kids giggling and laughing and running around as if it’s normal life. A lot of children who aren’t normally experienced to this type of setting might not know how to act," she says.
Feldkamp says the older adults give the kids wisdom, along with extra love and care.
"One of the things that’s really cool that happens between the ages in the child daycare wing is in our baby room we have what we call rock-a-by alerts. Where if a staff member maybe can’t pick up a crying baby right away and they’re crying and they’re upset, they’ll call a rock-a-by alert over the intercom. And one of the adults or CNAs will bring clients in to hold the babies and interact with them while they’re busy," she says.
Feldkamp is one of the employees responsible for bringing the Global Intergenerational Conference to Milwaukee this week. It begins Tuesday.
"And what we’re doing with the global conference and in conjunction with it is having a pre-conference to share our model of a shared site daycare, and then also to bring together all people that are working in the field doing research and policy for intergenerational programs, that really engage the generations to promote better health, stronger communities and active communities where were tapping into the resources," Feldkamp says.
According to Feldkamp, intergenerational care makes sense these days. "Instead of building separate facilities for the young and the old, you’re seeing how you can combine them and share resources together under one roof."
And in human terms, with the baby boomer population aging and living longer. "There is such an overall sense of getting old that you get put away. That you’re done, you’re too old, you retire, and that’s it, and you’re wasting an entire side of the population where they really want to be active and connected and engaged with people. So settings like this keep people active longer and keep people healthier longer and they give them a good quality of life," Feldkamp adds.
Feldkamp says St. Ann’s is looking forward to showcasing what it has learned works well, and hearing about effective programs elsewhere.