Preschool at a retirement complex fosters intergenerational learning

At Kindness Creators Intergenerational Preschool, age is nothing but a number.

“We want to say we’re helping fight ageism, one little kid at a time,” Pam Lawrence, who helped build the school in Oak Park, Illinois, told CBS News’ Adriana Diaz.

The idea is simple: At the school, which is located inside a retirement complex called Oak Park Arms, kids visit seniors down the hall, and seniors can come over to help teach preschool.

The goal Lawrence and his best friend, Jamie Moran, had in mind was to help children become more accepting of older people, and older people to become more accepting of children.

“Whenever you sit down with the kids,” said Oak Park Arms resident Nancy Thornton, “it makes their day.”

So far, the hard work of Lawrence and Moran is paying off.

“Some mornings, I’m not in great shape,” said Oak Park Arms resident Anne Grassley. “And then I come down here and you have to forget all that. You go into a different zone.”

Donna Butts, who runs Generations United, which promotes intergenerational learning, said there are concrete benefits to connecting children with older adults.

“For older adults, they tend to score better on memory tests,” she said. “We know from a study that was done recently that measured their walking speed before and after, and they walk faster. They are physically capable as well as mentally capable. “

In return the children show improvements in language, math and social skills.

Lawrence said that mixing seniors with children is “more beautiful than I thought.” Lawrence hopes the program is a model that is replicated across the country.

“I think this is one way to help transform our country,” Lawrence said. “We always say love conquers. That’s the definition of love, so spread it. Sprinkle it everywhere.”

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