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How a Preschool in a Nursing Home Became a Viral Video

“What can the very young and the very old offer each other, if given the chance?”

It’s a question that comes from a video about a child care program set inside a Seattle retirement home. If you haven’t watched it yet, please do. (You’re welcome.)

It’s a touching concept, bringing 4-year-olds and 94-year-olds together, and perhaps that’s what sparked the outpouring of support. So far, the Present Perfect trailer has reached more than 2 million views on YouTube, and the documentary film project has long surpassed its initial Kickstarter funding goal of $50,000. (At $89,000 and counting, the new goal is $100,000, which will cover all post-production costs.)

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What I find fascinating, beyond the intergenerational program — which I’ll get to in a second — is that people of all ages are watching, sharing and backing this film. In a world that’s generationally segregated, as filmmaker Evan Briggs puts it, that’s a big win in itself.

It goes to show, I think, that people understand the power of social connection. While isolation is not an inherent part of growing old, many older adults experience it and it’s linked to a host of physical and mental health risks. That’s why age-friendly community initiatives advocate for more opportunities to engage, interact and connect at every age.

This particular opportunity happens to be open to the residents at Providence Mount St. Vincent and the children who attend the Intergenerational Learning Center there. The film and the program focus on the very old and the very young, but Briggs ventures to say that they’re about more than that.

I agree. They’re about solidarity.

Intergenerational relationships help build what scholars call generational intelligence, or the ability to see from alternative age perspectives. It’s not easy to do, and sometimes it’s particularly difficult for younger people to empathize because they’ve yet to experience old age. Residents in nursing homes may be the “other.” They may be “them” rather than “us.” Coming together and knowing older adults as people helps break age stereotypes and foster age inclusion.

The children in this program aren’t initiating their own dialogue about generational solidarity (yet!), but they’re learning it by living it. It’s a head start, in my opinion, and who knows? With luck, the lessons may last well into the future — not just the present. They’re also likely rubbing off on the families of those involved, as well as the staff. And thanks to the widely circulated trailer, those who see it in action.

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I'll admit it: Sometimes I’m turned off by intergenerational programs that connect just two age groups, typically like this, with little ones and older adults. Why limit it to specific age ranges when the goal is to practice inclusivity? But I love how this program and the film seem to be reaching and resonating with people of all ages.

“Come again. Come when you can,” one woman says to the children at the end of the trailer.

Hopefully they will, and they'll bring a friend.

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