Not every child can be cared for by a grandparent while mom or dad is at work – but what if a stand-in was available every now and then?
That’s what families can expect at one of Ann Arbor’s newest and most unique child care options. Opened in July, Glacier Hills YMCA Child Development Center is an intergenerational child care program on the campus of Glacier Hills Senior Living Community in Ann Arbor.
Though it operates like a traditional day care center, its location gives resident seniors the chance to visit with the children – to read stories, help with a craft or simply share their love just as they would with their own grandkids. “I think that having children around keeps the seniors young at heart,” says Lee Anna Massey, regional child development director with the Ann Arbor YMCA. “It gives them renewed purpose when kids are around them.”
For children 6 weeks to 5 years
Housed inside the rehabilitation wing at Glacier Hills, the day care serves children ages 6 weeks through 5 years old. The center’s playground is situated where seniors can watch children at play from inside the center or while out walking around the campus. “It’s really cool, because they can come down and volunteer in the preschool,” Massey says, noting that the Glacier Hills community includes options for independent and assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. “It’s a nursing home and a senior living facility.”
And the benefits of this intergenerational day care go both ways. Since many Ann Arbor families are here temporarily for work or left extended family behind to pursue opportunities at the University of Michigan, a “stand in” grandparent can mean a lot to a young child.
“We have a lot of transient parents and families not from the Michigan area, so there are no grandparents close to them,” Massey explains. “They’re not exposed to elderly people … So this kind of provides them with another grandma and grandpa of sorts.”
The Ann Arbor YMCA now operates three child care centers in the area – the Glacier Hills center, one downtown and another in Ypsilanti. But this center’s approach is unique – not only in Washtenaw County, but across the entire state.
“This is only the second program of its kind in the state of Michigan,” she says.
Staff at the senior living center, which is affiliated with St. Joseph Mercy Senior Communities, have also welcomed the new day care. In fact, senior caregivers at the facility were given first dibs at enrolling their own children at a reduced rate.
“They had first-come first-serve, as well as the residents’ grandchildren,” Massey says. “People are very excited and the staff there was excited. Our infant room is completely full.”
As of early August, openings were still available for toddlers and preschoolers. Participation by the senior “friends” will evolve as more seniors get involved, Massey explains. “We are really open to their ideas,” she says. “If there are retired art teachers who want to do art with the kids, or science experiments, we’d be happy to have them do that. If somebody wants to come in and rock babies, they can come in and help with the babies. Whatever they’re interested in, we’d be happy to have them do.”
Holidays will also be a special time at Glacier Hills, with the day care students invited to trick or treat in the hallways, hand out valentines or do a gift exchange with seniors around Christmas. “I’m just really excited about doing something that’s different that’s going to benefit a community of children and the community of seniors,” she says. “I think it’s very cool.”
The Glacier Hills YMCA Child Development Center is located at the Glacier Hills Senior Living Community Campus, 1200 Earhart Road in Ann Arbor. Can serve 48-50 children total, ages 6 weeks through 5. Open 6:15 a.m.-6:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. Rates start at $1,090 per month.
For more information on the child care
center or to enroll your child, call
734-249-7073 or visit annarborymca.org.