Smiles worth a million dollars

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New FCSS Parent Link program brings seniors and young families together in positive symbiotic relationship

The new Parent Link “Partners in Time” program is bridging the gap between generations, putting smiles on the faces of young and old alike.

Starting last month Parent Link has been bringing young families to the Extendicare Athabasca and Pleasant Valley Lodge to participate in activities with the seniors.

Family and Community Support Services Parent Link programmer Patricia Leandelar said the idea for the program came to her after seeing an online video of a senior’s facility and playschool in Seattle adjacent to each other, participating in daily activities together.

“I was like why can’t we do that in Athabasca?” she said. “It’s positive interaction between generations. It’s bridging the gap between the seniors and the kids and the young adults as well.”

She added the program caps off at seven families per session, and the program has grown from three families starting out to nearly more then they can handle.

The young families switch between Pleasant Valley Lodge and the Extendicare Athabasca every two weeks, participating in bingo at Pleasant Valley and getting crafty with the seniors at the Extendicare.

The sound of giddy toddlers echoed throughout the Extendicare April 19 during craft time, and seniors sat painting birdhouses alongside toddlers and their parents.

Mihir Patel, Extendicare Athabasca recreation and therapy supervisor, said the effect of bringing children into the facility is extremely beneficial to the seniors.

“I saw a couple of residents today who took part in this. They were not happy in the morning. As soon as they saw the kids they perked up, they were happy and smiling,” he said.

“One resident got into tears just by shaking hands,” Patel added.

He added the program is a symbiotic relationship, whereby children are able to increase the social skills and mental faculty and the seniors get a level of interaction they may not otherwise receive.

“Recreation is a holistic sphere of improving their physical, mental, emotional, social relationships, and we can achieve this by having kids here,” he said. “The smile it brings on their faces, it’s worth a million dollars. It’s amazing to see that.”

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