“I have a new friend, and she’s a grandma, and she loves purple just like me!”
We all know preschoolers can be quick to befriend other kids their age. Countless hours at the park have allowed me to witness this phenomena first hand. Kids that were minutes ago strangers are now giggling and chasing each other in a game of tag or riding on the tire swing together, all while the parents have yet to make eye contact. Little kids love playing with other children, but did you know that preschoolers can also form rich bonds with elderly folks?
“I have a new friend, and she’s a grandma, and she loves purple just like me!” squealed Clara Kooistra gleefully after a recent visit with her Intergenerational Preschool class to the Boulder Creek Assisted Living Center. Clara is only four years old, yet by spending time with the “grandmas” and “grandpas” at Boulder Creek she has already begun to form friendships that are extremely beneficial to both herself and the seniors.
What Are the Benefits of Intergenerational Relationships?
Many studies show how greatly beneficial intergenerational relationships are, not only for seniors but also for young children. Research shows, ”the benefits of intergenerational preschools include improved communication and emotional skills, enhanced literacy, increased autonomy, and positive behavior and self-regulation. These experiences in early childhood also help these young students see the intricate needs of the elderly and influence their care in adulthood for the elderly,” said Kim Lowitzki, NorthPointe’s Marketing Director.
Furthermore, seniors experience profuse benefits from these relationships, as well. According to The Atlantic, “Numerous studies have linked social interaction with decreased loneliness, delayed mental decline, lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of disease and death in elders.
NorthPointe Christian Schools launched their Intergenerational Preschool Program this year, not only to allow their young students to glean the rich benefits that come from connecting with seniors, but also to fulfill their mission of equipping students to impact their world for Jesus Christ.
“Not only are our three-and four-year olds going to be more equipped academically and emotionally down the road, but they are able to make an impact in the lives of their senior friends at Boulder Creek today,” said Lowitzki.
Preschool Teacher, Miss Genzink, Shares an Inside Look at this Cutting Edge Program
I spoke with the Intergenerational Preschool teacher Lisa Genzink recently to learn more about this program, and I was so touched by the stories Genzink shared. This new program has been received in incredibly positive ways both by the elders and the preschoolers. The preschoolers eagerly anticipate each visit with their senior friends and the Boulder Creek residents feel the same way.
In fact, Miss Genzink heard from the Boulder Creek staff that a new resident to the assisted living facility had been there for two weeks before the kids visited and they had never seen her smile. Once the preschoolers came in, Genzink shared, “they started singing and snuggled right up with the grandfriends and this brought a big smile to this ‘grandma’s’ face. It was the first time the staff had seen her smile in over two weeks!”
Preschoolers and Seniors Eagerly Look Forward to their Time Together
Genzink noted, “From the very first visit there was no hesitation. Students are eager to show their ‘grandma’ or ‘grandpa’ what they know. And my students love the special attention they receive from their grandfriends! Even students who are typically shy and reluctant to participate are interacting and bonding with their new friend. The mom of one of these timid students had tears in her eyes as I shared a picture of her smiling child reading with a grandpa. It is truly a blessing to witness their interactions!”
One morning each month, the preschool classes pack up crafts and activities and head to Boulder Creek. Everyone loves the program so much that they may begin visiting the center twice monthly, said Genzink. The students and grandfriends enjoy doing a variety of activities together like reading, performing plays, singing songs, making crafts and simply laughing together and learning from one another.
Learn More About NorthPointe’s Intergenerational Preschool Program
Interested in learning more about NorthPointe Christian School’s uniquely beneficial Intergenerational Preschool Program? Check out one of NorthPointe Christian Schools Preschool and Elementary Learning Labs coming up later this month or call them today for a tour at 616-363-4869.