by Bobby Anderson – Writer/Photographer
What do eight-year-old kids and 80-year-old seniors have in common?
Turns out quite a lot.
Thanks to a unique Easter Seals program that combines adult day health participants with children both groups are having brighter days.
“It benefits both of them,” says Tony Lippe, Easter Seal’s assistant program director of adult day health. “It helps the children grow up not to be be afraid of older people and those who have a walker or a wheelchair. Children just lighten (the seniors) up.”
The Adult Day Health Center provides special care for adults who are unable to care for themselves for extended periods of time in a protective group setting enabling them to maintain or improve their ability to remain independent. The program utilizes music therapy, horticulture, arts and crafts, current events and other programs to help clients maintain a high level of functioning.
With Easter Seals, you are not alone caring for your family member or friend with frail health or disability. Services are medically-based and offer various levels of care based on the individual needs. A medical professional on staff meets with you to determine the level of care required.
Easter Seals Adult Day Center meets your loved one’s physical, social and emotional needs in a safe, home-like setting.
The program uses individual plans of care to provide a variety of health, social, recreational and therapeutic activities. In addition, the center provides supervision, support services and, in some cases, personal care. The program is open to eligible applicants ages 18 and up.
Attached to the day health center is a children’s center.
Brittney Ellis serves as the assistant director of programs for the Easter Seals Early Learning and Inclusion Academy.
She says the program is one of only two in the state.
“Everything for a kid is routine so the more we brought them over the more comfortable they became,” Ellis said. “They would start to get really excited about seeing them. We started out just coming over and doing morning exercise but we wanted to delve deeper.”
Soon the groups started joining together for art activities. Just recently there was an intergenerational talent show.
“Everything we do we do it together now,” Ellis said. “The (seniors) are very helpful. Over the last few months we really kind of rely on each other to get things done.”
Connie Henderson serves as the activity coordinator for the Adult Day Center and says the relationship is one that seems to work for everybody.
For the seniors, activities are planned with their individual needs in mind.
“I believe it’s my purpose, it’s what I tell my department,” Henderson said. “It’s a purpose because every individual is unique. I believe when you create a program you have to create it to that individual. What I like about Easter Seals is we offer small groups every day and they select where they want to go to.”
And seeing the children becomes a highlight of the day.
“I know for a lot of participants it does a lot for their conditions to just be around the children,” Ellis said. “Our overall goal is to be the leading organization for intergenerational (services). We want to lead the charge. There is so much research about the positives for (the seniors) and (for the children.)”
Easter Seals Oklahoma Adult Day Health Center is designated as a “Center of Excellence.”
It’s a distinction not easily earned.
The role of a Center of Excellence is often one of mentor, according to Jed Johnson, Assistant Vice President Adult & Senior Services, Easter Seals America.
“These centers serve as resources for fellow Easter Seals affiliates who are involved in the start-up of a new adult day services site, in the acquisition of a center, or in the performance improvement of an existing program,” Johnson said.
Adult Day Health Center Hours of Operation are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. You can call (405) 239-2525 for more information.
Private pay or financial Assistance is available through the Department of Human Services,Veterans Administration and Medicaid Advantage Waiver Program.
“What we’re trying to do is keep them in their homes and that’s what adult days does,” Lippe said. “It’s a home-like setting.
When the kids come in, it’s like when their grandchild came to visit them at home. It’s the same.”
Together the groups participated in a food drive benefitting the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma where donations were collected and dropped off at the charity.
“From my (perspective) it’s just automatic joy once they come into the room,” Ellis said. “I think they get a sense of the simplicity of being a child again and the laughter. Some of the participants physically can not participate but to just hear the children play brings joy all over them.”
Ellis doesn’t believe either group is really all that different from the other. Each require some attention, structure and an opportunity to flourish.