A fine example of an excellent relationship is occurring at “the Mount,” a living-care community for older adults in Seattle known as Providence Mount St. Vincent. There are 125 preschool children who share this facility with the residents in a program designed to counterbalance the loneliness and boredom that is often characteristic of this nursing facility, where the average age of the fragile, non-ambulatory residents is 92 years old. The goal is to make this a place where people come to live, not die, according to Charlene Boyd, administrator. Socializing across generations has been shown to increase the amount of smiling and conversation among older adults, as shown by a 2013 Japanese study. The impact of this social interaction on children shows an enhancement of social and personal development with the result that kids feel more comfortable around those with disabilities and impairments, and do not view them as incompetent. An example shows the benefits of interaction: One resident with advanced Alzheimer’s, with incomprehensible garble, was able to speak in complete, fluid and appropriate sentences the moment she was wheeled into the baby room. “You could immediately see that she had accessed some part of her brain that had raised several kids,” said Marie Hoover, director of the Intergenerational Learning Center. The intergenerational engagement is a jolt back to the world of the living. This dynamic caught the attention of the Seattle-based filmmaker Evan Briggs in early 2012 who wanted to explore the issue of aging in America. She is producing a documentary due out in 2017 that explores what happens when human connection across generations is encouraged and facilitated. Ms. Briggs felt that the retirement home with a preschool inside of it was a beautiful and poignant way to frame some of the issues and themes she wanted to address; the documentary, “Present Perfect,” is the result.
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