The hallway is empty; all is quiet. Then the sound of little feet and voices builds. Now you see the smiling faces of small children.
“We do a lot of intergenerational programing at Youville Home. The daycare comes up for reading time, exercises and Tiny Tots with our residents once a week,” says Kirsten Bone, Recreation Attendant.
SIGIS Child Care Society opened a daycare for children from birth to age five at Youville Home in St. Albert on Oct. 2, 2017. A week later, recreation programming started with the children and residents.
“We work collaboratively on these programs; our staff and theirs plan and lead the activities together. Currently we’re doing activities together two to three times per week, but our plan is to increase this over time,” says Cecilia Marion, Senior Director, Operations.
The children come up for formal programming, but they also take walks in Youville each day and bring birthday cards to residents.
“When we started our reading program with the daycare, I asked some residents I knew appreciated being around children or liked reading to see if they wanted to participate,” says Kirsten.
A group of three- and four-year-olds come to an activity room for the reading program with residents.
“The children are so entertaining. I enjoy reading, but this is much better,” says Blanche, a Youville Home resident.
Some of the residents read the books to the group, some hold the book and turn pages when it’s a book on CD, and other residents come to enjoy sharing the space with the children. The time together allows them to laugh and feel good.
“I am used to children. I was a teacher,” says Rose, a Youville resident. “It makes me feel young, which I’m not.”
Reading and doing other activities with the children gives the residents a sense of purpose.
Research shows that even a five- or 10-minute visit with children can have benefits that last up to a week for residents, especially those with dementia. Children can reach everyone, even those with dementia, because everyone was once a child.
“We’re very lucky to have the daycare in our building,” says Kirsten. “It’s a lovely way to spend some time, and it’s something for our residents to look forward to in their day. Everyone is in a better mood after the children have been here. It’s really good for everyone’s well-being—residents and staff.”
“I really wanted to have a daycare in our building. They give our residents a sense of connection and joy. They are a reminder of the cycle of life—the other end that residents may not see enough of regularly,” says Cecilia. “They are also a distraction; if you’re not feeling well or are in pain, they give you something else to look at and think about. They take you outside of your body.”
In the future, SIGIS hopes to develop their outdoor space into a welcoming place where residents can easily come in, sit and watch the children.
“I think some parents specifically chose this daycare location because of this special environment,” says Tricia Cunningham, Executive Director of SIGIS Child Care Society. “It’s a great opportunity for their children to interact with residents. They loved the concept.”