Seniors sometimes feel isolated and lonely because other family members are working, or find it difficult to care for themselves. Our center provides the edge for some families that makes it possible for them to avoid moving a senior into a managed care community or an assisted living facility. Our center also provides needed respite for weary caregivers.
A unique feature of the program is the connections our participants can make with children. For a short time each day, the seniors will spend quality time with children from our preschool and afterschool programs. Regular interactions with the children in our family-like atmosphere help to maintain and promote seniors’ engagement with society and interest in life. As a result, they tend to burn more calories, have fewer falls, experience improved memory and motor functions, and develop positive attitudes about themselves. Local hospitals are supportive of the program because they know that re-admittance is less likely for our participants.
Children receive as many benefits from the connections as the seniors. Research shows that kids who have regular contact with seniors naturally develop positive perceptions of older adults. They also tend to have higher scores on personal social development measurements.
Seventeen years ago, in 2000, when our executive director Jeneane Stevens started planning the Celebration program, she dreamed of eventually having pre-school, school age, and senior components that would make intergenerational connections possible.
Awareness of positive dynamics resulting from bringing generations into contact with each other is a relatively new insight in California. However, educational centers on the East Coast and especially in Europe have known about the phenomenon for a long time.
Our intergenerational program addresses a growing social need because modern society is altering ancient patterns in which grandpa and grandma often lived under the same roof or at least nearby. Grandparents now might live in retirement communities that exclude anyone younger than 55. Or in communities located in places like Florida, Arizona, or even Mexico. As a result, many children have little or no ongoing contact with anybody older than their parents.
Just as with Celebration’s children’s programs, our senior daycare program will have a “home away from home” quality providing a socially, emotionally, and physically safe space. The pleasant environment is suitable for laughter, fun, and learning with a family-like atmosphere that is enhanced by periodic visits with happy laughing children. Until we are able to build space for the senior program in our own Celebration facilities, we are renting space in the adjoining Lighthouse Baptist Church, which includes a lovely fellowship hall, with a deck, patio area, kitchen, designated quiet space, and an office. We serve complimentary beverages plus morning and afternoon snacks. Our guests will bring their own lunches or they can order in sandwiches and subs from Jimmy Johns, pizza from the Pizza Guys, or food from any other local food delivery venues.
Celebration Senior Care is licensed for 30 participants; five of which can be ambulatory. We maintain an official 1 to 5 ratio of staff to seniors but a number of willing volunteers are glad to support us, so that on a given day the ratio might, in fact, be much lower than that.
Prior to opening our center, we conducted a senior volunteer program to test the effectiveness of the theory. For more than a year, five senior citizens, most of them retired teachers, paid regular visits to children in their classrooms. We were pleased to see children’s faces light up when the seniors would enter the room plus the pure enjoyment shining on the faces of the seniors. Something special was obviously going on.
Our Celebration Adult Day Program is open Monday through Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The cost is $70 per day.
My connection with the senior care industry goes back to my childhood. I was born and raised in the East Bay. Both my parents worked in a number of convalescent hospitals that my grandparents owned. When I was eight, I began to spend evenings and summers working as a volunteer activities assistant doing in-room visits with bedridden patients in one of their hospitals. I also assisted my parents and the staff in hosting such events as theme parties, an annual carnival day, and holiday celebrations. My dad loved dressing up for those things and getting into some appropriate costume, so I did too.
I greatly enjoyed the hours I spent with the elderly patients. I might sit with them watching “Days of our Lives,” play a few hands of Go Fish, or accompany them on short excursions strolling among the trees and plants on the hospital grounds.
Because of my familiarity with so many elderly people, I never noticed they were unusual in any important way. Therefore, I was surprised when I went with my kindergarten class on a field trip to one of our hospitals and discovered that my classmates were frightened to be around old people.
“C’mon,” I told them. “These people are my friends!”
It was only natural, following graduation from high school to earn a Gerontology and Human Development degree from Cal State East Bay. I wrote my senior thesis on the advantages of intergenerational programs. Following graduation, I spent a number of years as activities director in a convalescent hospital.
I’ve been at Celebration Center since 2005, beginning with two years as an independent contractor offering behavioral therapy for a special needs student. When the first of my three boys was ready for school, Celebration’s preschool was the only possible choice for him to begin his educational journey. When the second child enrolled, I joined the staff as a teacher. Three years ago, Jeneane learned of my surprisingly relevant background and education, so she included me in planning for the Celebration’s senior care and intergenerational programs.
There are very few senior daycare centers in the area, and none with Celebration Adult Day Program’s generational crossover opportunities that have such positive effects on seniors, children, and even for staff members who are fortunate enough to be part of the program.