“Can I hold your baby?” These can be magic words for a person adjusting to the demands of parenthood. Sarah brought her baby Zelda to a Mother Goose event, held at a somewhat unexpected location: the Westwinds Squamish Senior Living facility. It was there that Sarah and Zelda met Chris, an active and independent grandmother. They had both recently moved to Squamish. For Chris, it was to spend her retirement close to her own grandchildren, who have themselves outgrown story time, and for Sarah, it was to raise her daughter in a smaller, more close-knit environment with access to nature.
As a new resident of Squamish, Sarah knew finding community wasn’t going to happen on its own. “I signed up for everything: Healthy Pregnancy Outreach Program, Mother Goose, Strong Start, SPARK, Imagination Library….. I know that if you want a community, you have to step forward and sign up. We’re so glad we did.”
The Parent-Child Mother Goose Program is one of many early childhood programs delivered by Sea to Sky Community Services. It introduces adults and children to the joy and power of using rhymes, songs and stories together. It’s also a terrific way to get to know your community as you are entering parenthood. In this case, the “community” includes people of all ages.
“We used to bring Mother Goose to the senior’s housing facility,” shares Lisa McIntosh, coordinator for the Childcare Resource and Referral Program at SSCS. “It started out as a need for program space, but since then we have learned so much about the deep benefits of connecting babies with seniors.”
Those intergenerational connections were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2023 US Surgeon General’s report “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation” brought forward very strong evidence of the real and tangible impacts of isolation on health, including longevity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, infectious disease and cognitive function. It also impacts anxiety and depression, which can be life-threatening.
The prescription and cure at the heart of this report is social connection.
For some senior participants, Mother Goose is a highlight of the week. The opportunity to dress up, have a muffin and some fruit, a cup of coffee with friends, and real cuddles with a little one, is something that we can no longer take for granted.
“The babies will begin to recognize program participants from week to week,” says Lisa McIntosh. “It’s natural for babies to connect with elderly people, and it’s natural to learn about the life cycle through developing these attachments. Many new families in Squamish are living far from their own older relatives, and they miss those important developmental connections.”
Many of the seniors are able to contribute actively as well; helping to set up the space, putting the coffee on, or even knitting socks and blankets for their tiny new friends.
At first, baby Zelda stayed close to her mom Sarah, but she kept noticing Chris. She would return again and again to her lap for stories and songs.
As Zelda approached her first birthday, Sarah knew there was one person she had to invite. “Chris was at the top of the list!” Sarah planned two parties, one in their new Squamish community, and one in their previous Vancouver community. “There were way more people at the Squamish party!” says Sarah. “There’s something especially connective about this place.”
“Bringing Mother Goose to Westwinds was the best idea ever”, says Chris, smiling as Zelda toddles toward her. “Programs like these are what make Squamish so beautiful.”
If you would like to support Sea to Sky Community Services in continuing to deliver local, meaningful, and impactful programs and services that help build connection and community, please consider volunteering or making a financial contribution to where it’s needed most. You can read more about the positive impact your support is having in our community by signing up for our e-newsletter, following us on social media, or reading more stories on our blog.