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Preschool at retirement complex promotes intergenerational learning

Preschool retirement home unites generations
Preschool located inside a retirement complex aims to promote intergenerational learning 03:02

At Kindness Creators Intergenerational Preschool, age is nothing but a number.

"We like to say we're helping fight ageism, one little baby at a time," Pam Lawrence, who helped create the school in Oak Park, Illinois, told CBS News' Adriana Diaz.

The idea is simple: At the school, which is located inside of a retirement complex called Oak Park Arms, the kids visit seniors down the hall, and the seniors can come to the preschool to help teach. 

The goal that Lawrence and her best friend, Jamie Moran, had in mind was to help kids becoming more accepting of older people, and for older people to be more accepting of kids.

"Anytime you sit with kids," said Oak Park Arms resident Nancy Thornton, "it makes your day."

So far, Lawrence and Moran's hard work is paying off.

"Some mornings, I'm not in too great shape," said Anne Grassley, an Oak Park Arms resident. "And then I come down here and you have to forget all that. You go into a different realm."

Donna Butts, who runs Generations United, which promotes intergenerational learning, said there are concrete benefits to linking children to older adults.

"For older adults, they score better on memory tests," she said. "We know from a study that was done recently they measured their walking speed before and after, and they walk faster. They are more physically able as well as mentally able."

Children, in turn, show improvements in language, math and social skills.

Lawrence said merging the seniors with children turned out to be "more beautiful than I thought it would be." Lawrence hopes the program is a model that's repeated nationwide. 

"I think this is a way to help change our country," Lawrence said. "We always say love wins. This is the definition of love, so spread it. Sprinkle it everywhere."

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