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Intergenerational buildings: Adding childcare to your facility

February 16, 2010
by Lisa Cini
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The benefits of turning assisted living facilities into intergenerational buildings can be enormous. Developing a “grandparent” program for the kids—which could include reading to them, rocking an infant, or doing a craft—can help give residents a sense of purpose.

Small children strolling through the home daily in multi-child strollers provides interaction for the residents who are not able to volunteer—and the kids love all the attention.

There are also advantages for staff and the parents of the children by providing a “dinner-to-go” program that utilizes the facility kitchen more effectively, generating additional income by selling quick meals. Parents can pick up their children as well as dinner and be on their way.

Multi-purpose shared spaces for exercise and dance are a huge plus. An example would be a private instructor offering taekwondo or dance for children. But during the off time, residents could use the space for yoga or other physical activities.

Getting the layout right for intergenerational setups is a challenge, which is why I have included the following key design considerations:


Location – Daycare needs to be near or at the entrance of the facility; dropping off and picking up a child quickly is essential for the partnership to work. It is preferred that the entrance to daycare is separated from areas high in resident traffic.

Parking – Special designation for daycare parking only is necessary. This can be a huge issue as parking is typically limited already at many assisted living sites. Also, the design team will need to consider the heavy traffic a daycare program creates. It is preferred if the ambulance location is not near the daycare entrance for obvious reasons.

Security – The daycare entrance should be separate from the assisted living facility, and the interior connection needs to have a buffer zone so that random residents do not have access and children do not accidently enter into the assisted living facility unescorted.

Signage and wayfinding – While exterior signage is critical the two should not compete. Clear signage indicating daycare entrances from the assisted living facility is key not only for flow but for safety. “One way” traffic patterns can be useful in achieving safe clear paths of travel. Interior signage for both daycare and assisted living needs to be complementary but clearly distinct and not confusing.

Finding the right partner – A good childcare partner is critical to the success of the program due to the extra effort that needs to be made to ensure a safe environment for both the children and the residents who want to participate in volunteering. If the daycare center does not see value in an intergenerational program there will end up being more problems than benefits.

Secured outdoor play space – Having an outdoor play space that is secured yet viewable from the interior of the assisted living is ideal. Residents can enjoy watching children play as a daily activity.

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Comments

Intergenerational programming can be a real win-win for elders, tots, providers and their employees if done well. Your caveats are all good ones. One more to consider is the need for extraordinary vigilance in screening ALF staff who will now not only be in contact with seniors but will have access to the youngsters as well, in order avoid potential additional liability exposure.

Lisa Cini

President and CEO

www.mosaicdesignstudio.com

Cini is president and CEO of Mosaic...