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Making a quilt together were, clockwise from top left, Friends Care volunteer coordinator Todd Sheets, Cedar Cliff students Olivia Murphy and Brittany Beatty, Friends preschool teacher Mary Beth Burkholder, preschooler Ja'Kai Nared, and Friends resident Bea. (Photo by Megan Bachman)

GALLERY – Intergenerational celebration at Friends preschool

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The activity board at Friends Care Community is chock full with intergenerational possibilities – there’s stories with kids, crafts with kids, tea party with kids, Valentine’s Day with kids. Such events are common when a preschool operates from a wing of a skilled care nursing facility. So a recent event, Color Our World Intergenerational, was more the rule than the exception.

“We’re all one big family,” said Brenda Noble, director of the early childhood programs at the Greene County Educational Service Center, which runs the educational component of the public preschool at Friends Care.

Preschoolers and elders were joined by Cedar Cliff High School students for last week’s event, which included paper quilt-making, crayon-melting and singing. What was somewhat unique was getting three generations together, Noble said.

The preschool draws students with disabilities and private pay students from the Yellow Springs and Cedar Cliff districts in addition to youth in the districts who are eligible for the low-income program Head Start, which covers provides the health, nutritional and social service component of preschool.

Noble came up with the idea to site the local preschool at Friends Care after serving on a Greene County committee that determined the two most underserved populations in the county were its elders and children. Friends Care was eager to accommodate the preschool and built a $500,000 facility in 2000 to house it, Noble said.

According to Noble, both elders and children benefit by each other’s presence. Elders are more motivated to attend activities, decreasing the incidence of bladder infections, depression and anxiety at Friends Care. Plus residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s are often more alert, active and smile more when children are around. Children learn empathy, caring and acceptance when they have a “community of grandmas and grandpas” to visit. Both children and elders are better behaved when around each other.

“There are endless opportunities for relationships to develop,” Noble said of the weekly scheduled story-time, singalongs and crafts events among the children and elders. Nursing facility residents are also welcome to visit the classroom at any time.

Though research continues to show the value of intergenerational activities, few preschools exist within nursing homes, Noble said. In May 2008, Friends Preschool was recognized as a national finalist for the Intergenerational Shared Site Best Practices Award and has received numerous other awards during its 12 years.

Noble believes the intergenerational model will be increasingly relevant. One in five people will be over 65 by the year 2030, meaning there will be more people of grandparent age than children.

“By bringing generations together, valuable resources are shared and everyone benefits,” Noble said. “We need to continue to look at the roles and responsibilities of each generation and consider restructuring ways that we provide education, health and social services.”

For more information, contact Noble at

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