Nothing can brighten the spirits like spending time with a child.
That’s the theory behind an interesting new project being explored by officials at one of the province’s long-term care facilities.
Health P.E.I. has issued a request for information (RFI) from anyone interested in opening a private daycare operation at the Beach Grove Home in Charlottetown. The idea is to create an innovative program that would offer benefits for both the young children and elderly residents of the home.
“As any long-term facility can say, completely unequivocally, there’s no bigger life in the building on any given day then when a childcare class comes to the facility,” said Andrew MacDougall, administrator of long-term care for Queens region with Health P.E.I.
“It’s like a lift. It’s just such a palpable increase in energy and spirit in the building. You wonder, ‘imagine if we could do something like that on a consistent, daily basis?’”
Feelings of loneliness, depression and helplessness in long-term care facilities are a constant challenge, and this could help elderly residents combat the negative effects of long-term institutionalized care, MacDougall said.
But it could also be a benefit to the children, who might better develop a more positive perception of the elderly, of disability and of the aging process.
“To have an intergenerational component where there’s a structured interaction between the residents and the kids, a lot of great things can happen for both parties.”
It’s not the first time a project like this has been undertaken.
Last year, the Loch Lomond Villa nursing home in Saint John, N.B., announced its intention to add a daycare operation to its seniors’ facility.
The RFI from Health P.E.I. also cites a growing body of research showing the many positive virtues of caring for the two generations together, including social enrichment and fostering of a family-like atmosphere for children and residents alike.
But logistics are also playing a big role in this proposed project. Up until recently, the Beach Grove Home housed a provincial dialysis unit. This has since been relocated to the ambulatory care centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
This now-vacated space at Beach Grove has a separate entry, parking lot and is located on a beautiful piece of property with an expanse of green space and a lovely community trail.
“Given the logistical merit of the location — separate parking, separate entrance, bright space — it’s just something that seems very worthy to go for,” MacDougall said. “You could have a very viable (daycare) operation there.”
MacDougall stressed the daycare centre itself would be privately operated, not run by Health P.E.I. or other government staff. It would also have to meet all current legal requirements for licensed childcare facilities.
As long as an intergenerational component is built into the early childhood curriculum, all individuals or organizations interested in pursuing the idea is encouraged to apply.
“I think people get to a certain age where they have that inner desire to want to help shape and mould future generations, so I think this really helps from the residents’ standpoint,” MacDougall said.
“From a societal perspective it’s an opportunity for young people to have access to people who really have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge and also being able to see firsthand some of the inspirational examples of people coping with frailty, and help to normalize at a very early age disease and ailments of all kinds.”
Officials hope to welcome preschoolers to the Beach Grove Home as soon as possible.