St. Ann’s Center for Intergenerational Care
by Joe Gallagher
Last month, I had the opportunity to take a tour of St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care’s Stein Campus in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve heard a lot about the center’s programs and how seniors and children interact there every day. As soon as I set foot within the Center’s main lobby, the excitement began to unfold right before my eyes…
The History Behind the Concept
In 1983, Sr. Edna Lonergan (the Center’s founder and president) began operating an adult day care in the basement of the health center of the Sisters of St Francis of Assisi.
Her passion for helping others and her patience with everyone she encountered led her to develop the Benevolent Touch Program in 1996. The aim of the program is to educate individuals on the idea that “the use of positive, gentle , nurturing touch ensures the recipient that they are in a safe and caring environment.”
She would go on to couple her passion with her program development by building the all-ages day care, St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care—Stein Campus in 1999.
The Center’s Programs
The campus is open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
It brings together adults with “different abilities” (not “disabilities”!) from underserved communities providing them with personalized day programs, daily exercise routines, educatio
nal opportunities and more.
They also offer specialized dementia care and a 24-hour overnight respite care wing that’s open seven days a week.
However, this is only half of what the campus provides. The campus brings together children (ages 6 weeks to 12 years) from local communities, providing them with personalized day care programs, before- and after-school programs and even summer camp offerings.
The adults and the children are provided these services under ONE roof.
Every day at St. Ann Center, the adults, seniors, and children are provided with an engagement opportunity in the central atrium space, complete with games, toys, palm trees (real, two-story palm trees!) It is one of the most amazing things to watch. Outside performers are brought in from time to time to provide entertainment for all. The children play with the seniors and the adults, many of which use wheelchairs and walkers but the children do not recognize the difference.
There are so many smiles, so much excitement—it is truly magnificent.
There is an average of 155 adults and 135 children who spend each day at St Ann Center’s Stein campus, participating in these daily activities. Once again, that’s not all! There are an additional 100+ members of the local communities who utilize internal services each day.
These services include (in no particular order): the Ageless Beauty Salon, Aquatic Center, Art & Ceramics Studio (including their own kiln), medical clinic, music therapy, outpatient therapy, counseling & support groups, massage & wellness offerings, the Java Bar & Café, and last, but not least, Sr. Edna’s jewelry shop featuring her handmade jewelry.
“Young & Old Together”: No One is Alone and Everyone is Celebrated
When you see the interaction between the children, the seniors, the young adults with various abilities, the daily workers of the Center and the members of the community as they come and go, utilizing the services within, you truly get a sense of just that – community.
I was only there for a few hours, and that was more than enough time for me to truly want to go back and participate in something, anything within those walls.
I cannot tell you the last time I felt such a sense of excitement and positivity, or this truly genuine vibe that everyone there truly loved being there. It was just unbelievable.
I highly recommend taking an opportunity to read more about the Center and their endeavors.
Lastly, I just wanted to take an opportunity to once again thank Sr. Edna for allowing us to take a tour of her wonderful facility. And I’d like to thank Sharon Selz for taking the time to take me on the tour and educating me on the Center and its daily happenings. St. Ann Center is a living, breathing example of the endless possibilities that can come from this Intergenerational discussion, typology and model. I look to continue furthering my knowledge on the successes of the model and ultimately use the information learned to further this discussion!
Have you been to one of the St. Ann Center campuses? Email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credits: St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care