A JEWEL of a Program Earns the 2011 MindAlert Award

Article excerpt

JEWEL (Joining Elders with Early Learners), a joint program of Family Services of Westchester and the Mount Kisco Child Care Center, is the winner of the 2011 ASA-MetLife Foundation MindAlert Award, a national award program that recognizes innovative approaches to maintaining older adults' cognitive fitness. MindAlert annually provides a way for nonprofit organizations to showcase older adult mental fitness programs that demonstrate innovative and effective application, and are accessible to diverse communities. The 201 1 MindAlert award will be given on April 27 at the National Forum on Brain Health, during the 2011 Aging in America Conference in San Francisco.

It used to be mat school kids would come home to a grandma eager to help with homework or maybe trounce mem in a game of gin rummy. Today, with families spread across continents, many kids rarely interact witíi elders. The JEWEL, a joint program of Family Services of Westchester (FSW) and the Mount Kisco Child Care Center, which practically stumbled upon the immense benefits of intergenerational interaction, now sees these benefits and interactions daily.

A melding of two programs - the Mount Kisco Child Care Center and me My Second Home Adult Day program - JEWEL is housed in one 20,000-square-foot residential facility in Mount Kisco, N.Y. When the Mount Kisco Child Care Center wished to expand into its own home after renting a series of sites in dour basements, an anonymous donor offered land on which to build a new facility. When the donor came up with the idea to build one facility to accommodate both programs, a good idea was born.


Dorothy Jordan, executive director of Mount Kisco, was just beginning to learn the benefits of intergenerational activities, and was responsive to the proposal.

The more she researched me idea, me more she heard people fondly recalling their youth in multigenerational households, some of which, like Jordan's, supported a working mom. Jordan's relatives were of all ages, but they weren't necessarily healthy or engaged. Yet Jordan still enjoyed and felt their support. So she took "a leap of faith," and agreed to work with FSW on the design and development of the shared site, plus collaborate on the JEWEL program.

Today, Jordan hosts 160 kids from three months to 11 years old at Mount Kisco, and Rina Bellamy, director of My Second Home, has 90 adults, ages 60 to 97, with some level of impairment, either physical or mental, coming to My Second Home on a daily basis. Several times a day the two populations get together for joint activities, which can range from elders watching children sing, or actively helping them with painting projects.

One of the beauties of JEWEL is that parents of the children in daycare can go off to work knowing that their kids are in doubly good hands, and elders' caregivers in the My Second Home program get well-deserved respite. …