ST. PETER’S: A pilot project in Richmond County has successfully paired pre-school children with older adults for a unique yoga program.

The project was initiated by Michele MacPhee, the senior safety coordinator based out of the Kingston Memorial Health Centre in L’Ardoise. All aspects of senior safety and well-being are covered under her mandate and the pairing of the older adults who reside at the Richmond Villa with children from the pre-primary program at nearby East Richmond Education Centre struck MacPhee as a win-win situation.

In addition to introducing the four and five-year-olds to the special yoga program, the older adults participated according to their abilities and enjoyed watching the children.

Photos by Dana MacPhail-Touesnard — A special inter-generational yoga program was tailored to both Richmond Villa residents with sometimes limited mobility, as well as pre-school children, for a unique bonding experience.

Richmond Villa resident Allan Drake said he benefited from the physical movements and from recalling seeing his seven children grow up.

“It reminds me of my kids,” he said, smiling, after the final session on June 7.

“I can just see all of them there, playing, and it brings back such nice memories.”

The play-based yoga session was developed by MacPhee, using a deck of kids’ yoga cards called Yoga Pretzels as a template. MacPhee, a certified yoga instructor who offers classes through Richmond County Recreation, led the group through yoga breathing, as well as traditional poses including downward dog and a linked tree pose. They also hopped like frogs, walked like dogs and roared like lions.

Richmond Villa resident Marion Maltby, a retired teacher, said it was both fun and interesting to watch the children in the session, as well as follow along.

“It’s a great benefit for the kids and they watch to see what you’re doing all the time they’re making the movements,” she said, noting she would “absolutely” take part again.

MacPhee began the session by asking participants to share their name and favourite childhood games, setting the stage for the fun activity to come.

“As adults, we forget how to play; it’s not something that comes natural but we were all kids once,” she said, hoping the sessions helped the kids understand the different stages of life and connect with the older adults, as well as letting the children know that they have something to teach adults about play.

“It’s very play-based as opposed to your typical yoga class so that everyone can participate,” MacPhee explained. “So even if a move isn’t accessible to the people in the chairs, they can still make the animal sound or follow along with the story somewhat. It was really more about the interactivity for the people that are participating, the kids and the older adults, really, to get together, in a fun, safe space, and the yoga seed is kind of planted and they’ll do with it what they do, in the future.”

Michele MacPhee (left) led children and Richmond Villa residents through a special play-based yoga session on June 7, wrapping up a pilot project designed for both groups to move, play and enjoy each other’s company.

MacPhee noted the sessions may not leave participants feeling as peaceful or “zen” as they would from a typical yoga class but “your heart feels full.”

“You’re engaging in a really fun activity so you’re smiling, you’re laughing, you’re participating in kind of a meaningful way.”

MacPhee also hopes to deliver the program in the future with pre-school children in Arichat paired with residents of the St. Anne Community and Nursing Care Centre.