Brno launches pilot project to house seniors alongside kindergartens

Photo: Karolína Peřestá / Czech Radio

Brno, the second-largest Czech city, has launched a pilot project to bring seniors and kindergarten children together in one building. Studies show similar initiatives have greatly improved the mental health and physical wellbeing of the elderly, who often suffer from feeling isolated. But preschoolers also have much to gain.

Children were a daily part of retiree Anna Konůpková’s life for decades, and she is excited at the prospect of moving into housing that is not just for seniors.

“I taught at school for over forty years, so I was in constant contact with children, including the little ones. I’m used to being alone. I read a lot, I knit and sew, but I could always find time for kids – maybe I will find a friendly soul there, and we will understand each other and have fun together.”

Photo: Karolína Peřestá / Czech Radio

Ms Konůpková is one of 16 seniors waiting for confirmation that she can move into a new apartment on Pod Nemocnicí Street alongside a kindergarten that will have some 28 children per class. The building, in Brno’s Bohunice district, which also house a community centre, and have some facilities for older people with disabilities.

There will also be a shared garden, but for legal liability reasons, it will be separated by a fence, though everyone is of course welcome to gather in the new community centre, says district mayor Antonín Crha.

“The garden is designed so that seniors and children can see each other, even if only through the fence, because for the safety of children it is not possible otherwise. But they can easily communicate with each other, say hello, talk, there is no problem with that.”

“We have a pensioners club here which is looking for a place, so we would like to install a Senior Point here as well. But we hope that parents and children, even young people, will find their way here. There can be some concerts because the hall is quite large.”

Photo: Karolína Peřestá / Czech Radio

Around the world, many communities have been experimenting with ways to bring seniors and schoolchildren into regular contact. It’s not just the elderly who benefit from intergenerational programmes, studies show. Many children don’t have a grandparent in their life, for example, a relationship sorely missed when their nuclear family is not together.

Brno mayor Markéta Vaňková says she believes the pilot project will lead to fostering other formal connections between seniors in the city.

“We’ll see if this concept works. I firmly believe it will, and that it is a really good idea. At the moment, no similar project is being developed, but if we find other suitable locations, we could go down this path again.”

Researchers at Stanford University note that aging adults are among the best groups to spend time with young children because they can pass on wisdom and are at a point in life where they have the time and patience to do so.

Authors: Brian Kenety , Karolína Peřestá
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