Report finds support for bringing young people, seniors together

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SILVER SPRING, Md. - A nationwide poll found Americans overwhelmingly support caring for children and older adults in the same spaces, but far fewer know where to find such places in their community. 

The poll, conducted for Generations United and The Eisner Foundation, found 92 percent of Americans believe activities that bring together children and older adults can reduce loneliness across all ages.

In addition, 89 percent of those surveyed think serving both children and older adults at the same location is a good use of resources.

"We don't have enough shared sites in this country because we have divided our population by age," said Trent Stamp, the Eisner Foundation's CEO. 

He said older people benefit from communities that have children in them, and vice-versa.

A physical space where the two age groups can interact is called an intergenerational center.

At Easterseals' Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, preschoolers have their activities in the second floor of the building. On the ground level, adults with disabilities receive day care service.

From time to time, the two groups interact with one another. During a joint event Thursday, the adults painted, read, danced and sang songs with the children.

"They seem to be happy and happier in here once the little kids come," said Shirley Makel, who goes to Easterseals' adult day care service.

Makel, 81, said activities like reading with children bring back good memories of spending time with her own children.

"I thought about it when I would read to them every night before they went to sleep. I would read a storybook with them," she said.

Donna Butts, the executive director of Generations United, said intergenerational centers "save dollars while making sense."

"Communities realize that they can serve more than just one population, that it makes them richer. It makes their community richer. It makes everybody feel like they belong there," she said. 

Butts said she wants policymakers to make it easier for intergenerational centers to be established in communities across the country. It is challenging, since funding for programs is often divided by age, she said. 

In Columbia, one preschool holds intergenerational activities with a skilled nursing facility. TigerSide Intergenerational Preschool is located at The Neighborhoods at TigerPlace. 

Stephanie Ross, the preschool's director, said children in the preschool will read with the seniors and interact together.