LONGVIEW, Wash. -- Residents at the Delaware Plaza retirement home in Longview have some new neighbors.
They’re much younger and at the home for much different reasons, though. They’re attending preschool.
New this year, Longview Parks and Recreation started a preschool within the retirement home. Dubbed “Golden Apple Intergenerational Preschool,” the preschool occupies an apartment room at the Delaware. As the name implies, the school allows students to interact with seniors living at the home.
On Thursday, Golden Apple’s eight students joined Delaware residents for lunch in the dining room.
“Oh, it’s great,” said Gerri Fitzsimmons, 86. “I don’t have any little ones anymore. Mine are all grown up.”
Classroom time for the students is spent with a dedicated teacher. In between learning time, the students join the seniors for activities including exercise, cooking, and bingo.
“They’re so smart,” said Fitzsimmons.
A Longview Parks and Recreation supervisor was inspired to start the program after learning of a similar preschool in Seattle.
“There’s so much that they can both benefit from,” said Lya Trammell, a recreation specialist with the city. “It’s great for the kids to have that experience with the elders, and really get that one-on-one interaction. They really learn great social skills. They get specific attention,” Trammell said.
“I just love them being around the seniors and he has a lot of fun,” said Angelina Blanco, whose son attends Golden Apple. “He has a great time. Lots of stories. And I think it’s a great setting for a preschool.”
“Everybody calls me ‘grandma,’” said Fitzsimmons, chuckling.
Golden Apple runs from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Longview Parks and Recreation staff said they’re hoping to expand the program and have availability for a couple of more students.