Providing care for people of all ages is what the United Presbyterian (UP) Home in Washington does best. In 1947, it opened its doors for residents, and in 1989 opened a new set for youth.
Mike Moore, CEO at the time, got the idea to open a day care in the facility after attending a conference in Miami. During an educational session, he learned opening a center could be a good way to keep staff retention high.
He spoke with another CEO attending the conference who suggested utilizing the day care for intergenerational activities between residents and children. Moore took the idea back to Iowa, crunched numbers and put together a plan. He presented it to the board, but there was a catch.
He said if the board approved the plan for the day care, the UP Home would suffer a loss of $30,000. This was due to staffing costs, licensing, building fees and a cost cut for employees who chose to send their children to the day care.
The board decided the rest of the facility would make up the loss and the program was put into action. Lisa Clark, who had just graduated college in May 1989, became the director when the UP With Kids center opened in August that same year.
“She had a lot of great ideas and between the two of us, we put together the plan of how we were going to do this,” he said.
The UP Home was the first in the state of Iowa to have a day care center in a nursing home setting and among the first in the nation, Moore said. With Clark’s help, the pair wrote grants and designed a space large enough for everyone.
Kids in the day care ranged from infants to preschool age and were all children of staff members, he said. A couple of days a week, the kids walked upstairs and became involved with activities with residents.
“I didn’t have any idea the intergenerational activities would work like it did, until I went up and watched them,” Moore said.
The infants, especially, were welcomed, he said. Dementia patients who did not speak or interact with staff often, smiled, held and spoke to the infants.
Older children brought toys and games to play with residents. This provided a benefit for both generations, he said, because it provided a fun, safe environment and mental stimulation.
“We found that if the kids were there, playing ball for example, everybody wanted to go to activities,” he said. “Having the kids interact with residents had many benefits, but the biggest benefit I noticed was the young kids learned about older people.”
Moore said the more interaction, the less shy the children were and became used to seeing adults in wheelchairs.
“They didn’t look at them like they were old,” he said. “Likewise, for the older people, it helped them stay young in their mind.”
The program worked well for the first couple of years before they hit a snag in the road. The children were beginning to grow older and there were not enough staff children to keep the program running.
Moore and Clark made the decision to open the program to the public. This brought in more children and more opportunities for interaction.
Exercise, reading and eating meals together has continued for the past 30 years. A few years ago, a summer camp program for students Kindergarten age and up was started. Now, a new generation has an opportunity to interact with residents.
“I think its going to show tremendous results as they get older,” he said of the effect the environment has on the children.
The UP Home remains one of few places in the state where intergenerational activities are at the center. Moore said he would like to see that increased because the benefits far outweigh the cost.
“It’s amazing more health care facilities don’t do it,” he said. “You don’t make money on it, but I think you make growth in what you get out to the people who you’re taking care of.”