Program brings children, older people together

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COLUMBIA - The TigerSide Intergenerational Preschool is educating children in the community about how to interact with their elders.

TigerSide Director Stephanie Ross said her favorite part of the week is bringing her students to The Arbors at Mill Creek Village and watching the different generations mingle among one another.

"They just naturally come together. They want to sit next to the kids and the kids want to sit next to them. Some kids it’s good for them to help," Ross said. 

Mary Swanson, the lifestyle coordinator for The Arbors at Mill Creek Village, said when she first started working it was important to bring the intergenerational preschool to the elders. 

“These kids are around these elders a lot, so they don’t see that they have difficulties. They just see them as people," Swanson said.

Eliza Peck is one of the preschoolers who found a special bond with an elder from day one. 

The first time Ross brought the children to Mill Creek, Barbra Osburn sat next to her and held her hand. Osburn has Alzheimer's and has a hard time remembering much at all. The two of them share a special bond every week.

"With Barbra and Eliza she spells her name every time and then Eliza has to spell her name for her. And it is every single time and sometimes it is several times a visit, and Eliza never questions it. She doesn’t ask. She doesn’t seem to care. She just likes being with her," Ross said.

Osburn's husband, Don Osburn, said his wife used to teach the fifth grade at Midway. Her face lights up every time kids walk into the building. 

"She loves kids. She likes to interact with them, and it makes her very happy. She is a very happy person in spite of her limitations," Don Osburn said.

The young children are teaching the elderly how to use technology. Ross said the other week they brought a Wii and had all the elders dancing to Justin Bieber. 

The elderly are also constantly teaching the children new skills, and how to interact with one another.

Swanson said every day is a new day and, "they [elders] maybe having a day that is challenging for them, but as soon as the kids walk in you can tell that there is something about having the young children here that brightens their day.”

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