Day Care for Seniors and Children

Janet Winslow's husband, Bob, has Alzheimer's and needs to be looked after during the day. So does Tracy Bartley's 4-year-old, Emily. So the two attend day care together at the "One Generation" day-care center in Van Nuys, Calif.

"He [Bob Winslow] likes to help with the kids," Janet Winslow said. "And so not only is he receiving care, he has a sense that he is also giving care."

Bartley also sees the benefit for her toddler.

"I feel this is a good place for kids to be," she said. "Beyond being a wonderful preschool, having the neighbors next door -- as the kids call the seniors -- it gives them the exposure to that, that must have such great value. I know for my kids it's definitely been beneficial."

An estimated 44 percent of Americans have an aging parent and a young child for whom they care, and One Generation is being heralded as a model solution to finding quality care for both.

At One Generation, the children and seniors are cared for in adjoining rooms and given an opportunity to connect up to seven times a day. Supervised by trained caregivers, they share a variety of activities geared especially to their age and abilities like singing, dancing and reading.

"I get excited when I see them [the children] do something new," said Charlotte Fleishman, a senior at the center. "It's just like they're mine."

One Generation cares for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years and provides day-care services for elders with a range of disabilities from minor memory loss to Parkinson's.

"It used to be where families lived together in a house, you'd see two, three, sometimes four generations," said Kelly Bruno, vice president of One Generation. "And that's just not the case anymore. And, this younger generation is really missing something. And this program is giving that back to them."

The trend is catching on -- there are more than 500 similar programs nationwide. The mixing of the generations could have benefits for child development. In a new study, preschoolers who had regular contact with seniors were 11 months ahead of kids in standard day care in their ability to name emotions, work cooperatively, and participate in social activities. They also had better manners.

"They're [the children] probably going to be curious about things like wheelchairs and walkers and maybe oxygen tanks," said Cindy Oser, an expert in early-childhood development. "But it's a wonderful opportunity for the kids to learn about people who are different."

"Having this relationship with the seniors here, when we go up to see my grandmother, she's not afraid," Bartley said. "I think it just makes her a better person too, to see people with differences."

The benefits are not one-sided.

"It's something that really enriches life … that gives him purpose and hope and interaction," Janet Winslow said.