In the world that we live today, grandma or grandpa cannot as readily pop in from across the street (or down the hallway) to build a permanent and consistent relationship with their grandchildren. "Our extended families really are extended, they are far away," says Dawn Meyerski, program director of Mt. Kisco Childcare Center. In the absence of a familiarity that has long since past, this local facility is doing what it can to make up for what's been lost to our modern lives.
Occupying its own space, and fostering intergenerational relationships at 95 Radio Circle in Mt. Kisco with the daycare,is the elder care program, My Second Home. In collaboration for about 10 years, with the first five spent in separate locations, the two programs melded as a result of a husband and wife donor who had different ideas on where they wanted to focus their generosity. “One was interested in childcare and one was interested in elder care and they said, ‘we'll give you a nice gift if you consider doing something
intergenerational,’” says Ms. Meyerski.
They considered and the program has gone onto returning what would be expected – even if some of us might have forgotten what that was. From the elder side of society, she says, “I think that seniors are an
invisible part of our population,” she says, but at this facility seniors inherently fulfill the role of mentors and nurturers, she adds.
That is in part due to the state of health that the seniors occupy. Basically healthy, she says, "It's a social model instead of a medical model," and while they are sometimes frail, seniors are certainly capable of physical activity, she adds.
From there, intergenerational activities provide the vehicle in which the storytelling, smiles and hugs that would normally come from grandparents become a familiar experience to these kids. Dancing, gardening and cooking, “It’s not about the activity that they do, the activities are the catalyst for building relationships,” she says.
In turn, a sense of purpose arises and the body follows in line with the lifted spirits that go along with interacting with the young, according to My Second Home Director, Rina Bellamy. The happiness that the children bring, she says, bolsters the immune system, naturally encourages physical activity and improves the appetite of seniors on the go.
Of course, symbiosis by nature is a two way street and it certainly applies across the corridor that separates the two non-profits. The beauty of the program says Ms. Meyerski, is the kids learn to see the valuein people regardless of how they look. And in doing so, they truly get an image of someone - despite the disabilities that might mask the exterior.
From the natural order of pairing children with grandparents, the kids get what they often cannot get from adults closer to their age. Not buried beneath the burdens of parenthood anymore, says Ms. Bellamy, “They are in the moment and can give their undivided attention.” Ms. Meyerski agrees in a similar manner. “They make eye contact and they listen to them, which is a huge gift for children,” she says.
This generational crossover facilitates the daily challenges of running a daycare and helps divert kids from the knowledge that they are away from home for most of the day. “I think it’s a break in the day and gets the kids out of the classroom into a different environment,” says Ms. Meyerski.
For example, all the efforts of teachers couldn’t calm the crying of a child on one particular day that Ms. Meyerski remembers well. So she took him for a walk to the senior side, where the boy heard a grandma
speaking Italian. “That’s the language they speak at home and he looked right at her and climbed in her lap,” she says. He was good for the rest of the day.
That serves as a model, which pairs children and seniors together in intergenerational activities for periods of about two months. As a result, “The kids become very possessive of their grandma or grandpa,” she says.
It's a lot for them to be proud of, but they would gladly defer their uniqueness in favor of others who would pick up on the idea. Traditionally, says Ms. Bellamy, strong communities are about diverse age groups and the defined roles they play within the whole. If grandparents are left out of the picture, society suffers. “So naturally, this model should be rule not the exception,” she concludes.More Mt. Kisco Stories http://mtkisco10549.blogspot.com/ http://voices.yahoo.com/photos/team-2-bridge-builders-8539145.html?cat=4 http://voices.yahoo.com/photos/more-snow-mkccc-7729158.html?cat=4