When First Lady Pamela Northam, Terry McAuliffe, candidate for governor, and his wife, Dorothy McAuliffe, visited JABA’s Shining Star Preschool recently they highlighted a program at JABA that many people, who may be familiar with the services we offer seniors, aren’t familiar with. Our preschool is just down the hall from our Adult Care Center on Hillsdale Drive in Charlottesville, and for years our seniors at the center and our preschool kids have enjoyed a relationship that is unique in our area.

“It warms our hearts to see what you have here,” said Terry McAuliffe. “You know, we all see this and then we go back and we use it sort of as a model that we have to do in the rest of the Commonwealth.”

“It’s intergenerational,” Dorothy McAuliffe said. “So we have seniors who come here as well. And the educational opportunities, the emotional, social development for young people as well as for the seniors, it’s just a really thriving center and we need to do everything we can to support places like this.”

McAuliffe said he plans to invest more money in education and teacher pay, if elected governor, so that there can be more success stories like JABA’s preschool.

The program serves children from diverse backgrounds and a mix of income levels, as well as students referred through the Department of Social Services and the United Way. For parents caring for young children and an older parent who would like to attend the Adult Care Center, it also presents an opportunity, to drop both off for the day at the same place.

As JABA staff have noticed, the children and seniors often form special bonds.

“The children can get members to do things we can’t get them to do,” said Adult Care Center manager Danielle Flippin. “They see those young smiling faces and they want to help, want to teach them, so we see them playing games, eating meals together, creating crafts and telling stories.”

While kids are often shy with the older adults at first, it doesn’t take long for them to break out of their shells, Flippin said. And she added that parents report that the kids treat older people differently in public after their experience at the center, smiling and saying hello more often.

Staff members have also noticed that the children not only bring seniors joy, but they are very adept at communicating with elders, many of whom are in the earliest stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Indeed, when some elders aren’t responding to people and activities as much as they used to, staff members report that they will often respond to the children, who end up taking the lead on engaging with their senior friends.

To learn more about JABA’s Shining Star Preschool visit our website or call 434.817.3616.