Intergenerational preschool brings seniors and children together

By Jessie Weisner
May 29, 2019 - 6:26pm Updated: May 29, 2019 - 7:11pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB -- A unique new program has come to a Medicine Hat preschool, giving seniors and children a chance to spend time together.

It’s the work of an intergenerational preschool operating out of Chinook Village seniors residence.

Mother Natures Preschool used to be located in Elm Street School, but when they were asked to relocate, Linda Hygard, managing director at Chinook Village, had a suggestion.

“When we were asked to move,” says Sherry Jean, executive director of Mother Natures Preschool. “Linda phoned me and said ‘I have a proposition for you’, she had been to an intergenerational child care centre in Saskatchewan and I said yes let’s talk and we did.”

That led to the preschool relocating to a space inside Chinook Village in January 2019, and beginning to mix the seniors with kids.

The program has been a dream of Jeans.

“It’s been a journey and it’s working out really well, it’s a dream of mine and it’s coming true and I love it.”

Kids aged 12 months to five years old meet with the seniors once a week, they’ve painted Easter eggs, played board games, had tea-party’s and on Wednesday, they planted flowers together to get ready for summer.

The activities are the highlights of the week for some Chinook residents.

Especially Ethel Barnstable and Shirley Stevenson, both retired teachers.

“Just to hear them come down the hall,” says Burnstable. “And to hear the laughter just is such a wonderful feeling. My heart just warms when they’re there.”

“It brings back all the memories of your own little ones,” says Stevenson. “I have four children and now they have children so I have great grandchildren, oh they’re so sweet.”

The program has been operating for three months now, and according to Jean, it’s just as beneficial for the children.

“Some of the children, their families don’t live here, they might not have grandparents that are here,” says Jean. “They have different family situations and it’s just really positive, seniors are patient.”

While some residents play with the children directly, others choose to watch from their balconies.

Regardless of how they engage, Jean says it’s brought a something new to the facility.

“It’s been really positive,” says Jean. “It’s positive for everybody, it’s positive for the seniors, for the children and for the staff as well, it’s been good.”

Something that residents hope is here to stay.

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