About Art to Heart
In what will be a first for the Jewish aging population in the Southern Hemisphere, Smile on Seniors has announced plans to build a revolutionary new intergenerational centre – bringing together seniors and toddlers in a shared environment.
In the past five years, Smile on Seniors has been facilitating Jewish programs at aged care facilities around Melbourne and has partnered together in a very successful program. Their latest initiative will see them launching an innovative new centre of their own where once again residents from the various aged-care facilities will benefit from with joint programs with toddlers in their new Smile on Seniors & child care centre they are building.
“Our centre will be a home for both seniors and toddlers,” says Mrs. Esther Stern, co-Director of Smile on Seniors. “We want to create an inter-generational facility, harnessing that special innocence shared by these two age groups”.
Recent studies show that interaction with young children has a significant impact on the health of seniors. Activities like music, dancing, art, and storytelling, when done in the company of toddlers, has shown to be beneficial for both mental and physical decline.
Mrs. Molly Swain is the director of The Mount – the first such inter-generational facility in Seattle, USA, and the feature of a new documentary “Present Perfect”.
“Doctors don’t really have a scientific explanation,” she says, describing the remarkable improvement she has witnessed in The Mount’s senior residents. “We think it brings older people back in time, back to a stage when they held children of their own and played with them. It takes them to a place where they can just exude that love back”.
According to the new documentary, 43% of older adults experience social isolation, resulting in increased rates of depression, dementia, and physical decline. When they’re surrounded by toddlers, though, seniors seem to magically regain their youth.
“It’s a real gift for family members,” Swain says, “to witness their loved one’s so fully present again”.
The new Smile on Seniors is purposed to open in 2018. Children will do joint events with weekly visits from seniors and will share holiday activities and Jewish programs.
“It will be an enriching experience for both the toddlers and the seniors,” says Rabbi Menachem Stern, Director of Smile on Seniors. “They both have a way of communicating without words – seniors because they’ve forgotten and toddlers because they haven’t yet learned. The two groups can connect on a level that other people cannot”.
Smile on Seniors is proud to be bringing this innovative approach to Australia. “It’s a most exciting undertaking,” Stern says. “It’s revolutionary on the one hand, yet at the same time in tune with an eternal Jewish truth – the indestructible link between one generation and the next”.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to make such an uplifting change to the senior population in Melbourne,” he says. “It’s our way of bringing some additional joy to the community”.