Life in Long Term Care

Joy and connection through play at Perley Health

Intergenerational Playgroup at Perley Health

Location: Perley Health, Ottawa

In the spring of 2023, Perley Health welcomed a much younger demographic through its doors. Twice a week, children accompanied by a parent or guardian join seniors for two-hour playgroup sessions as part of an innovative intergenerational program. This initiative is in collaboration with Andrew Fleck Children’s Services, one of Ontario’s oldest and most diversified family-support organizations specializing in childcare and early learning.

Innovation at Play

“From the moment our discussions started, we could see that our two organizations had much in common,” says Kim Hiscott, Executive Director of Andrew Fleck Children’s Services. “We may serve different age groups, but both organizations strive to improve the health and well-being of the people we serve.” 

While the number of playgroup participants varies, each session typically involves 5 or 6 children and a similar number of residents and tenants. An Early Childhood Educator facilitates each session, while a Personal Support Worker tends to the needs of residents. 

“I love being a part of it,” says Laura Boucher, a regular participant and tenant. “It fills my heart with joy and makes me feel better.” 

While a few retirement residences in Australia run intergenerational playgroups, Perley Health aspires to develop programming to uniquely benefit its community of more than 600 seniors and veterans.

“There is evidence in the scientific literature documenting benefits to health and well-being for seniors participating in programs like these,” says Katrin Spencer, Perley Health’s Director, Strategy, Partnership and Growth. “Our Centre of Excellence in Frailty-Informed Care is evaluating the program.” 

The partnership with Andrew Fleck is also behind a larger initiative: a licenced childcare centre at Perley Health that would accommodate up to 49 children. Details have yet to be finalized, but construction could begin later this year. 

“I would love to have my child in an onsite program while I’m working,” says Amberlee Gray-Henderson, a Food and Nutrition Manager at Perley Health who participates regularly in the intergenerational playgroup. “It would be ideal for our family and I know that my child benefits from spending time with seniors.” 

Once the childcare centre is up and running, the partners plan to continue the intergenerational playgroup. 

In November, Perley Health began to pilot a similar intergenerational program under a partnership with Christie Lake Kids, a non-profit that provides year-round community and camp programs to children and youth from low-income households. During each weekly two-hour session, approximately six youth and a similar number of seniors share a meal and participate in musical activities. Based on the success of the initial sessions, the partners hope to extend the pilot project. 

Story shared with permissions from Perley Health. Read the original blog post here.