Cheryl Schliske: Heart and soul missing
March 13, 2012
I am writing in regards to your recent article about the Doak Walker Care Center ("A shot in the arm," March 1 Steamboat Today). I wondered why there was no mention of GrandKids in your article. While it is lovely that the elementary students come by for an hour once each week, the children that the residents see on a daily basis are the infants, toddlers and preschoolers from GrandKids. The intergenerational program is an integral part of both the Doak and GrandKids. The kids share meals, planned activities, music and spontaneous visits with them. The residents come over to the school on occasion to read to the kids or in the summer to just hang out on the playground. Some of the residents have "special friends" — that is, a child who is paired with a Doak resident — with whom they exchange birthday and holiday gifts and cards, as well as outings and activities. It is most gratifying to see the faces light up whenever the kids come over, and it lends a sense of normalcy to their surroundings. The children are entirely comfortable being around elderly people in wheelchairs and wearing oxygen. Many of the kids don't have grandparents nearby, so the residents serve as surrogates. You can see there are myriad benefits to an intergenerational program.
As you know, the new senior living campus will be a state-of-the-art facility but will not have GrandKids on site. Space was originally planned for a child care center but was ultimately considered not to be cost effective. The ramifications of this sadden me deeply. The residents no longer will be able to be visited by a stroller full of adorable babies or have a group of 1- to 2-year-olds skip over to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" for them on a whim. There will be no more spontaneous visits by the 3-year-olds to show them a new dance they've learned. They will only get to see the preschoolers (who will be bussed over) for scheduled/planned activities a couple of times per week because state regulations prohibit the transport of children younger than age 3. It's a crime that they can't find room at least for infant care in the new building.
I had a resident tell me that she hopes she dies before the move to the new facility because she doesn't want to go without the kids. What good is a brand-new, state-of-the-art building if the heart and soul are missing?
Preschool teacher, GrandKids Childcare Center