Pre-kindergartner Madeline Estep chats with Marie Smiel.
Pre-kindergartner Madeline Estep chats with Marie Smiel.
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Pint-sized performers shuffled into the recreation room of a Latham assisted living facility, giggling and then quieting as they began a spring concert. They sang of leprechauns and kites, birds and rain.

The audience enjoyed most of it. "When they were saying, 'The old man was snoring,' they were looking at me!" protested Bob Parent, a resident of Millview Adult Home, with a playful smile.

The children, 33 four- and five-year olds from the pre-kindergarten program at St. Ambrose School in Latham, made an encore appearance last month after a successful Valentine's Day visit, when they presented residents with their own artwork and pewter angel keepsakes donated by the parish's faith formation program.

For St. Patrick's Day, the children brought handmade cards and four-leaf-clover stickers. Raymond Blair, a resident, stuck one to his forehead.

"[We'll] be talking about this for weeks," Mr. Blair told The Evangelist. "We didn't know what to expect. They were well-behaved."

The students are from St. Ambrose's "Tender Tots" program, an intergenerational idea dreamed up by parish nurse Nancy Acemoglu. She also coordinates parish blood drives, health screenings, a grief group and hospital visits.

The new program carries on St. Ambrose's history of ministering to Millview, Mrs. Acemoglu said. Rev. Francis DuBois, pastor, has visited and celebrated Mass at the home for decades. Parishioners also distribute communion weekly and a deacon offers communion services.

Through Tender Tots, "I try to have meaningful experiences between adults and children," Mrs. Acemoglu noted. "It's very life-giving. You see the hope of the new generation."

Millview residents have also been invited to a Grandparents' Day party and to the children's graduation ceremony in June.

"I think the kids realize that they're making the older people happy," said teacher Donna Sposito. "They can see the smiles on [residents'] faces." The children have even suggested song and activity ideas for next time.

The pre-K group calls the residents "their 'old friends,'" Mrs. Sposito continued. "I think they associate them with their own grandparents. They're not fearful of them. They go to them and hug them."

Mr. Blair said the partnership fills gaps for children without grandparents and adults without grandchildren. Mr. Parent, whose own grandchildren are adults, said the Tender Tots visitors remind him of when he had little ones around.

"I think the old people enjoy the kids," Mr. Parent said. "I think they should be here all the time."

Evelyn Martin, president of Millview's resident council, called the visits "better than medicine. [Residents] need something to pick them up sometimes."

The children, Mrs. Martin added, are "too young to know what this is all about. For them, it's just party time."