Connecting kids with seniors

[Editor’s note: This is an updated version with clarifications of an article that appeared in the August 2015 issue of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.]

After teaching kids most of her life, 101-year-old Grace Cloninger enjoyed interacting with children at her retirement community in Sacramento, CA. 

Eskaton Monroe Lodge, Cloninger’s home for 17 years, partnered with a local school to bring the Eskaton Kids Connection program to residents. A classroom of approximately 30 children visit the community to complete various activities together, explains Lola Rain, social media director at Eskaton.

“The kids are paired with their ‘buddies,’ and Grace had two,” Rain says. “They do different things, like art projects, reading or singing.”

Cloninger recently stopped participating in Kids Connection for health reasons, but she always enjoyed time with the children. “I loved working with kids as a teacher, so it was nice to be able to stay in touch with young people again,” she said. “Singing with them was my favorite part.” 

Eskaton launched the intergenerational program six years ago to bring socialization to residents. Kids Connection is a replicable program with a track record of success, Rain says. In fact, the program has spread to 23 communities in Northern California, bringing 26 classrooms to interact with residents.

“It’s all about the intergenerational activities, so they all interact together and it is beneficial for everybody,” she notes. “We want more communities across the U.S. to adopt the program or build their own, and people like Grace will definitely benefit.”

Eskaton Kids Connection won the 2015 Innovations in Quality Award from the California Assisted Living Association. A guidebook is available by clicking here for providers wanting to start their own intergenerational program.