When many people think of retirement communities, they envision a living situation in which the elderly are effectively sequestered away from other age groups.
At one Seattle retirement home, however, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, ever since a preschool opened up inside the Providence Mount St. Vincent senior care facility, retired residents have “come alive,” as a newly released documentary finds.
According to People, preschoolers attending the Intergenerational Learning Center, who range in age from infancy to five years, spend time with more than 400 senior residents five days a week. Together, they partake in activities ranging from dancing and art projects to storytelling and even cooking.
“I was struck by the simple perfection of the concept,” said filmmaker Evan Briggs, who spent the 2012-13 school year documenting everyday life at the Intergenerational Learning Center for her documentary, entitled Present Perfect.
Briggs described the interactions between the school’s small children and the retirement home’s elderly residents as “sweet, some awkward, some funny – all of them poignant and heartbreakingly real.”
With preschoolers present, Providence Mount St. Vincent’s residents underwent a “complete transformation,” Briggs explained.
“Moments before the kids came in, sometimes the people seemed half alive, sometimes asleep,” she told ABC News. “It was a depressing scene. As soon as the kids walked in for art or music or making sandwiches for the homeless or whatever the project that day was, the residents came alive.”
And by “coming alive,” Providence Mount St. Vincent’s residents are able to be a little more active every day. In 2010, a mere 22% of seniors were regularly active; when increased exercise is linked to improved memory and cognitive function, retirees can benefit immensely from getting up and around.
Present Perfect is more than just a documentary that entertains the notion of two opposite ends of the age spectrum interacting. Its purpose is to start a conversation about aging in America and how the elderly are too often segregated from society. When 43% of older adults report experiencing feeling social isolation and loneliness, there are plenty of things that today’s nursing homes can learn from places like Providence Mount St. Vincent.