It is a regular day at Midland College (MC) Children’s Center at Manor Park. Assistant
Director Tracy Roome is walking down the hall with the children and reminding them
to be quiet and stay in a line.
All of a sudden a resident of Manor Park, a local continuing care retirement community,
comes up behind her and scolds Roome saying, “You need to stop getting onto the kids!
They are like a little garden. They are the jewels. You just leave them alone!”
“We call the residents Grandpals, and they are very protective of the children at
our center,” said Roome. “I thought the elderly residents would want the children
to quietly and obediently walk in a line, but that is not what they want the kids
to do here. The residents want to be able to stop, talk, visit and interact with the
MC Children’s Center at Manor Park provides unique childcare. It is an intergenerational
program, which means it brings together different generations in ongoing, mutually
beneficial activities. It is located in the hub of Manor Park’s activity center. Residents
are encouraged to visit the children’s classroom and outdoor play area.
“It is a really positive experience to have the Grandpals visit,” explained Roome.
“The children love them. I would venture to say the students listen more closely to
the Grandpals than they do to me, so it is really powerful when they read to the children
or work with them on puzzles, math or vocabulary. One Grandpal, Miss Ann, comes in
once a week and stays for almost two hours. She was recently on vacation, and the
children couldn’t wait for her to come back. They were asking for her by name!”
A typical day for the children begins by reading books, building with blocks, creating
art and playing educational computers games. They eat breakfast, participate in teacher-directed
activities and play outside. Then it is time for lunch and a nap. Twice a week the
children have breakfast with the Grandpals, and once a month the children have a picnic
with the Grandpals. But most importantly, during the course of the day there are many
opportunities to spontaneously interact with the residents of Manor Park.
“It is not so much about planning specific activities with the Grandpals as it is
just being with them,” said Roome. “Intergenerational relationships are about the
little moments. It is not something I can create or teach. It is hard to describe
if you have not witnessed it yourself. It is a private moment, and it is amazing that
it happens here on a daily basis.”
Research shows many benefits for children in intergenerational programs. One scholarly
article suggests that these children will be more socially and personally mature than
their peers. Roome says she sees her children learn compassion and acceptance firsthand.
“One day the children were in the long-term care unit, and a crying resident dropped
her lap blanket,” Roome said. “A little girl just stopped, looked at her, picked up
that blanket and spread it back on the resident’s lap. That resident stopped crying,
her eyes lit up and she said thank you to that little girl. There seems to be a connection
between people who are close to the end of life and children who are just beginning
Roome said that when one of the residents passes away, she and the teachers work closely
together to explain it to the children.
“There was a woman who came to visit every day; her name was Miss Ethel,” recalled
Roome. “When she died, I sat the children down and talked to them about it in a three-year-old
way. The children do not really understand death yet, but just explaining it in a
way I thought they could handle helped them become accustomed to the idea that Miss
Ethel would not be coming back.”
Roome is the perfect person for the job at the MC Children’s Center at Manor Park.
Her mother opened a childcare center in Fort Stockton when Roome was 16, so she worked
there after school. She and her mother attended night classes at Odessa College traveling
back and forth for seven years until they graduated with an associate degree in Child
and Family Studies.
Roome moved to Midland when she got married. She has been working at the MC Children’s
Center at Manor Park since it opened in 2000. Since she knew she would have to work
with children who might experience a loss, she volunteered with Rays of Hope for 10
“I knew how to care for children from my studies and previous experience, but I knew
that this intergenerational program was going to bring with it new challenges,” said
Roome. “I didn’t have those specialized counselor skills, so I turned to Rays of
Hope. It really is an amazing program and organization. I learned a lot about helping
children deal with grief, and I am able to be mindful of that training everyday.
“You have to have a passion for childcare. You have to be committed to your families,
your children and your coworkers, and at Manor Park, you need to be committed to the
residents. I enjoy being of service to others in this position.”
Roome credits Manor Park for always trying to improve the quality of life for their
residents, and she is honored that MC’s childcare program is a part of that.
“Including the children with residents is always at the top of Manor Park activity
directors’ to-do lists,” explained Roome. “They really understand that elderly adults
and young children have a lot in common. Though there may be many years’ age difference,
they each experience changes in development, need for companionship and a desire to
be understood. If they can fulfill those needs together it is truly a win-win.”
Children must be 2 ½ years or older to enroll in the MC Children’s Center at Manor
Park. All of the 18 available spots are currently filled; however, Roome does maintain
For more information about the MC Children’s Center at Manor Park visit midland.edu/childcare