Facilities that look after both seniors and children are popping up across the nation as care providers seek innovative solutions to meet growing demand. In the new service model, interaction between different generations is found to enrich the lives of participants while improving the facility’s quality of care.
Colocation centers, also known as intergenerational shared sites, provide services or programs for preschoolers, youth, and older adults at the same time and the same place. For instance, a preschool located in a nursing home, or a community center housing both adult day-care and child day-care programs.
While the existence of such facilities is not widespread, interest has grown. The number of centers has increased in recent years to combat the ill effects of age segregation and to meet the rising demand for child care and senior care services, both of which are difficult to obtain in some areas.
The Providence Mount St. Vincent Intergenerational Learning Center in Seattle, for example, is a retirement home that also provides day care services for unrelated preschoolers in the same building. Seniors and children participate in social activities and community projects together. The facility is one of the longtime examples of intergenerational programs designed to reduce boredom and loneliness associated with nursing home life.
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. Socializing across generations has also been shown to increase the amount of smiling and conversation among older adults.”
Intergenerational facilities are also beneficial to the children, who receive extra attention and learn new social skills. Kids also learn about aging and people with disabilities.
There are between 100 and 500 intergenerational learning centers in the US, according to estimates from nonprofit advocacy group Generations United. The organization expects the trend to continue as baby boomers look for engaging and stimulating facilities for their aging parents.
The care model is not unique to the US: The concept was formed in Japan and later carried into Canada and the US. Singapore, which is also experiencing a rapidly aging society, is implementing a plan to make colocation facilities the norm to maximize opportunities for intergenerational interactions.
Forming partnerships with senior-care facilities could provide a growth opportunity for child-care service providers, and vice versa. Barriers to the widespread establishment of centers may include startup costs and regulatory policies on how nursing-home residents and preschoolers spend their time.
Anne Law has been a member of the D&B editorial department for more than a decade, providing content for the Hoover’s and First Research products. She currently covers the health care and insurance industries for First Research. For industry news, follow Anne on Twitter.