What would happen if you paired the very young with the very old?
It's being done at a preschool in Seattle, where child care takes place throughout a campus which is also home to more than 400 older adults.
Called the Intergenerational Learning Center, the preschool is located within Providence Mount St. Vincent, a senior care center in West Seattle. Five days a week, the children and residents come together in a variety of planned activities such as music, dancing, art, lunch, storytelling or just visiting.
And now this incredible place is about to have its own film. Called "Present Perfect," it was shot over the course of the 2012-2013 school year by filmmaker Evan Briggs, who is also an adjunct professor at Seattle University. Funded completely out of her own pocket and shot by her alone, Briggs has now launched a Kickstarter to fund the editing of the movie. She has more than $45,000 of her $50,000 goal with 15 days to go.
Residents of "the Mount," Briggs said, did a "complete transformation in the presence of the children. Moments before the kids came in, sometimes the people seemed half alive, sometimes asleep. It was a depressing scene. As soon as the kids walked in for art or music or making sandwiches for the homeless or whatever the project that day was, the residents came alive."
The kids, she said, took everything in stride. She talked of a moment at the beginning of the film trailer when a young boy, Max, is meeting an elderly man named John. John has to repeatedly ask Max his name, calling him Mack, Matt and Match. "That scene actually went on far longer that what you see in the trailer. But Max was just so patient, he just kept repeating his name over and over."
Interestingly, the parents of the students don't send their kids to the Intergenerational Learning Center primarily for the experience with the seniors. "It's got a great reputation and great teachers," said Briggs. But parents of kids who were in the class that she embedded herself in for the school year now tell her they see the benefit of the model. "One father told me that he especially sees it now that his own parents are aging."
She named the film "Present Perfect" she said, as a reference to the fact that these two groups of people — the preschoolers, who have almost no past and so much future and the elderly who such rich past but very little future — really only have a few years of overlap in their lives.
"It's also about being in the present moment," Briggs said, "something so many adults struggle with."
Briggs said the moments between the kids and the residents "sweet, some awkward, some funny — all of them poignant and heartbreakingly real."
Briggs hopes her film will open a conversation about aging in America. She writes on her Kickstarter, "Shooting this film and embedding myself in the nursing home environment also allowed me to see with new eyes just how generationally segregated we’ve become as a society. And getting to know so many of the amazing residents of the Mount really highlighted the tremendous loss this is for us all."
She called the preschool a "genius" idea that is "well within our reach" on a larger scale and hopes the idea expands to other schools around the country. "It's a great example of how we integrate the elderly into society."