11 Sep 2017
Dawn Meyerski, Executive Director of the Mount Kisco Child Care Center, still recalls the day when one of the 4 year olds at the center asked ‘Grandpa’ to help him make a beaded necklace for his mom. Grandpa replied that he wasn’t able to help – he had arthritis. The determined little boy replied, “You find all the pink and blue hearts and I’ll put them on the string.” And so go the interactions at My Second Home, an intergenerational day program, with locations in Mount Kisco and White Plains.
The program was the brain child of an anonymous donor who wanted his/her aging mom to be around children – something that made the mom happy. That donor kick-started the original program by donating the land for the two programs to exist in separate wings in a mixed-use building in Mount Kisco: an early childhood center alongside an adult day program.
At various times during the day, you can find Grandmas and Grandpas engaging with the children: an environment of reciprocity where all participants can learn and be comforted by each other. Being around children is just one benefit of the program. It also provides an opportunity for older adults with varying stages of dementia (though 20% of the participants are not cognitively impaired) to live with dignity and remain at home for as long as possible – offering respite care for caregivers and socialization, says My Second Home Senior Director Karen Bisignano.
Says Roger, whose wife attends the program, “Caring for a loved one with dementia is like running a marathon – and there is no way a family can handle this reality without being able to ‘pass the baton’ to other caregivers: to enable a recharging of the energy required for this long journey. That’s where My Second Home comes in. This fabulous community becomes an extension of the family of each person that attends.”
Whether it’s pet therapy with Hearst, the Golden Retriever-Labrador dog that comes weekly – having been specially trained to be around young children and older adults, participating in chair yoga (or zumba), relaxing with an “I Love Lucy” rerun, listening to a pianist play favorites, participating in a “hot topics” discussion or working on an art project, each attendee is kept as busy as they like.
My Second Home is an approved partner for Music & Memory, a well-regarded therapy that benefits dementia patients. Caregiver support groups are also offered.
Volunteers are an essential part of keeping the program’s services wide-ranging and affordable. One of the regular volunteers runs a baking group, while another helps serve breakfast and organizes a “men’s group” of sorts. Social work interns come from Fordham’s prestigious Master’s program. Occupational therapy interns from Mercy College are also present, as are interns from the White Plains Youth Bureau.
Paula, whose mom has been a program attendee for over two years, describes the care and dedication of the My Second Home team: “Their patience, kindness, and understanding of her illness combined with programs established to keep her social and engaged has no doubt been fundamental to her happiness to date.”
The My Second Home program – providing respite care for family caregivers, stimulating older adults within an intergenerational setting, and showing young children how they can give and receive help and comfort from an older generation – stands out as much for its uniqueness as for its service.
My Second Home, a program of Family Services of Westchester, operates Mondays through Fridays, with an additional program on Saturdays. The White Plains location offers a half-day program as well. Locations: 95 Radio Circle in Mount Kisco (firstname.lastname@example.org), 914-241-0770; 106 North Broadway in White Plains, 914-422-8100.