Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Village with Seniors: A unique approach to Intergenerational Programs

We've seen and heard stories like these countless times: the Alzheimer's patient who can play Claire de Lune on the piano without missing a note. The unresponsive patient whose face literally lights up at the sound of music. And the mother, who, for the first time all day gets a motherly pinch on her cheek, and a sing-song compliment: "you're so cute."

Moments like these happen every day in a "Village with Seniors" class -- a special Kindermusik class held in senior centers for babies and their mothers. The class brings generations together, and researchers are just beginning to understand both the short-term and long term benefits.
“It makes them feel like they have more of a role in society, and that they can contribute to the next generation," says Phyllis Heppner, Kindermusik Educator and owner of The Musik Shop, in a recent article in the LangleyTimes about the program in British Columbia. 
“We’re not just hiding them away somewhere, they have an impact on little, tiny babies. And they tend to really encourage the babies, so that’s very good for them. It gives them an opportunity for creativity, and self expression. They have an increased sense of self-worth and less depression, because of that. They make friendships, they have regular participation in an event that they love. So it makes their life a little more interesting.”
Studies show that intergenerational programs have a positive effect on both the young and aging populations. As healthcare specialists prepare for the rising tide of aging groups -- dubbed the silver wave -- the age group 85 and older is now the fastest growing population in the United States, according to Generations United.
"Research shows that ... Intergenerational programs help to dispel age-related myths and stereotypes. They can also address societal concerns such as literacy, environmental issues, health, crime prevention, and much more. Public policies can support intergenerational programs through the promotion of intergenerational civic engagement and encouragement of intergenerational solutions to community issues."
Want to learn more about bringing "Village with Seniors" to your community? We'd love to help you get started.

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