By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The City of Medicine Hat and Mother Nature’s Preschool are teaming up to promote inter-generational experiences and break down ageism.

Sherry Jean is the founder and manager of Mother Nature’s Preschool, Medicine Hat’s only inter-generational centre. The centre, located next to Chinook Village Retirement Community, was created with the goal of bringing children and seniors together.

“We connect with residents of Chinook Village,” Jean told the News. “Pre-pandemic (we connected) weekly, during the pandemic it was more through videos or for the seniors that overlook the park to stop by and watch the kids. We’re still connected with residents, but not face to face at the moment.

“Basically, it’s just bringing the young and older people together. They read stories, we do Christmas concerts for the seniors, it’s just a really reciprocal relationship … and a really great connection for both that brings them a lot of joy.

“A lot of times they’re quite similar in their interests. As you age, you remember your childhood and things you used to do.”

As for the children, Jean says it also helps them as they grow and age.

“It’s just a really great continuum of … the life cycle,” said Jean. “It brings up all sorts of discussions with children about life lessons.”

Jean and local artist Dina Earthborn are working on the creation of an inter-generational mural, which will face the playground and Chinook Village. The mural was expected to be completed this year, however due to weather conditions it is now slated to be finished in spring.

“Once restrictions are lifted a little bit, there are resident artists in Chinook Village, so they could come and paint with the children on the wall, (make) hand prints with the children, just have more of an interactive mural – something that seniors and children can work on together,” said Jean.

She also hopes in-person meetings can resume in the future. For now, the children at Mother Nature’s Preschool continues to send videos to Chinook Village residents and learn about age.

Shantel Ottenbreit, community resource worker at the City of Medicine Hat, has been actively involved in the program. She teaches the children about age through books and sensory activities. She and the city also contribute to projects like the mural.

“The city is always interested in diversity and inclusion, which induces ageism,” Ottenbriet told the News. “With ageism, what we know is that if people better understand others and have more empathy and understanding for them, they’re more likely to have a positive view on aging and will be less ageist in the end in their thoughts and actions … If we can positively interact with children and give them a better view of aging and having positive experiences with older adults, then we know long-term that’s going to improve the way they view older adults.”

Jean, Ottenbreit and the various other collaborators for the inter-generational project intend to continue the program. Ottenbreit says the city will hopefully introduce more inter-generational learning opportunities in the new year.

This item is reprinted with permission from Medicine Hat News, Medicine Hat, Alberta. See article HERE.

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