Letter: GrandKids program helped spark intergenerational programs across America
The Nov. 16 article, “GrandKids Child Care Center Celebrates 40 Years” was of great interest to me. Congratulations to GrandKids on this milestone.
In 1981, a Rout County child care shortage prompted the idea to repurpose some empty space at Routt Memorial Extended Care Center and develop a child care center for employees and the community. Likewise, bringing children into the building was an opportunity to uplift the quality of life for nursing home residents.
Staff and I worked diligently to create the early childhood education program, write grants, develop the intergenerational program, etc. The opening of GrandKids was abruptly halted in September 1981 when state health department licensing officials required that the programs be separated by a wall — a direct conflict to my intergenerational program vision.
With political maneuvering and community support, former Gov. Richard Lamm approved the license without a “wall,” clearing the way for the Nov. 18, 1981, opening of GrandKids.
Initially, proceeding cautiously with intergenerational activities, we learned that “caution” was pointless. Interactions, whether spontaneous or planned, became routine, abundant and effortless as the residents and children became a part of everyone’s day.
Some residents would line up by the entrance every morning greeting children and parents, exchanging hugs and friendly “hellos.” Even the resident naysayers were lured into the program and donated money for toys.
A nonverbal woman with Alzheimer’s disease, amazed the staff when she spoke clearly to the infants. Exercise class, art projects, music, field trips, a Winter Carnival parade float, holiday celebrations and the Special Friends Program were popular intergenerational activities. The benefits of this intergenerational program were palpable.
Employees valued the great convenience of on-site child care and the ease of visiting their child during a break. Stories about the meaningful relationships among the participants are plentiful. The intergenerational interactions helped older adults stay connected to their community.
The nationally recognized GrandKids program spurred development of intergenerational programs across America. Finally, I applaud the dedicated work of the staff and volunteers who contributed to its success.
Former director of Nursing/RMH Extended Care Center, founder of GrandKids
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