‘The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle…..’

Water taxi from Downtown to West Seattle
Water taxi from Downtown to West Seattle
Intergenerational Music session.
Intergenerational Music session.
Childcare fully integrated into 'the Mount'.
Childcare fully integrated into ‘the Mount’.
The library at 'the Mount'
The library at ‘the Mount’
Entrance to 'The Mount' for families and 'wee' visitors.
Entrance to ‘The Mount’ for families and ‘wee’ visitors.

Well maybe not today as the morning has kicked off pretty cool, gray and drizzly or ‘dreich’ as it’s more affectionately known in Scotland. Still this doesn’t stop me as I commence a 40 minute brisk walk downtown to catch the 9am water-taxi over to West Seattle.

Mary Jane Knecht kindly agreed to meet me at the departure point to travel over the together to Mount Saint Vincent as coincidentally they have an Arts Engagement Activity going on today- part of the wider community engagement by Frye Art Museum.

I am off today to experience the Intergenerational Programme at Providence Mount St. Vincent or “the Mount” as it is known locally. The Mount is home to over 400 older adults providing 24-hour nursing care to the residents in the Skilled Nursing Neighbourhoods, Assisted Living apartments and Transitional Care Unit, a short-stay unit for patients who have just been discharged from hospital but still need nursing care and rehabilitation. The average age of residents is 92 years old.

The Intergenerational Learning Centre opened for business in 1991 and is a licensed child care centre located within Providence Mount St. Vincent and serves children aged from 6 weeks to 5 years- there are currently 125 children enrolled. It is open 5 days a week from 6am to 6pm and is open to the community as well as employers.

The residents and children interact within an umbrella of intergenerational programming with activities ranging from art, music, fun, exercise and recreational games to small group activities and engagement. There are 6 classes and each class has six scheduled weekly visits planned with a group of residents.

I was able to spend some time with Kathryn Anderson (Director of Clinical Services and fellow nurse) and Marie Hoover (Director of the Intergenerational Learning Centre) who spoke about the programme and the positive impact for residents, children, staff and the community. The success of the programme though has taken many years to get to where it is now and the advice given was to start off small and to ensure staff share values that complement the vision and  are committed to working across all spectrums of life.

Susan Clark kindly gave me a tour of “The Mount” and to show me the Intergenerational Programme in action which was a real joy to watch, particularly the music session. The programme is helping to normalise dementia and to hopefully break down the stereotypes and barriers that exist in society around dementia and ageing.

One of the intentions of the programme is to, ‘make from the beginning of life to the end of life the best years of life- to link that full circle’.

A film has been made called Present Perfect about the intergenerational project and is due to be finished by Summer 2016 and further information can be found at http://www.presentperfectfilm.com

Following my tour of the Mount I joined Mary Jane Knecht and colleagues who were facilitating an art session with volunteers and a small group of residents. One of the volunteers had been a nurse and lived over in Kyle of Lochalsh- small world. She told me that she had been matched with a resident who had also been a nurse and for many years worked night shift which helped explain her usual longstanding night -time activity. A great example of how knowing the person and understanding their life narrative and to see beyond the diagnosis of dementia can make all the difference and prevent labelling something as a problem.

Prior to catching the water taxi back over the bay I took a long walk in the rain back down and along the seafront towards Alki Beach. A usually bonny place I am told with wonderful views but sadly not today. Took the boat back over and had a last wander downtown on my last full day in Seattle.

I couldn’t resist revisiting Pike Place and I came across a great band busking- ‘Pretty Shady Stringband’ (slightly different line-up in link) who describe themselves as old time music by the people, for the people. A great finale from a wonderful city which I hope to visit again in the future.