Young and old flock together
Resident Nora Hora and a young friend enjoy the outdoors
Autumn is a busy season at Lutheran Life Community's Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights, IL.
“We see a lot of transitions from room to room, or new starts in the fall,” says Assistant Administrator Sarah Kurth.
But Kurth is not referring to the home's nursing and assisted living residents — she's talking about its childcare program, Shepherd's Flock.
The program serves children from infancy to six years. In the fall, older kids leave for kindergarten and new children join.
Younger children are taken on daily buggy walks through the home, and there are monthly and annual events to bring young and old together. This month, they will hold their yearly harvest festival.
The seniors light up around the kids, Kurth says, and the children love having an extended network of “grandmas and grandpas,” as they call the residents.
“It breaks down barriers,” Kurth says. Children learn not to be fearful of someone in a wheelchair or on oxygen, she notes.
Despite these benefits, intergenerational programs are rare. Senior care leaders might run up against cost, space and regulatory challenges, and some don't see childcare as part of their mission, says Roger W. Paulsberg, president and CEO of Lutheran Life Communities. He launched Shepherd's Flock in 1997 and has no doubt about its value.
“My ultimate goal is to have Shepherd's Flock at all our sites,” he says.