A friendly visitor is always a welcome sight for those living in retirement homes. But when tiny visitors are strolled in with their rosy cheeks, infectious smiles and bubbly personalities, the residents know they’re in for a special treat.

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In Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, the Circle of Life program is bringing seniors and babies together for stories, songs and socialization. Once a month, volunteer moms, caregivers and their little ones are greeted by a room full of seniors anxious to meet their new little friends.

Lion Allie Boyd of the Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s Lions Club started the program in 2022. The idea came while she was working in geriatrics and pregnant with her second son. “The older women always wanted to talk about babies,” she says. “Remembering their experiences of raising their children seemed to brighten their days.”

The timing to launch such a program couldn’t have been better. COVID-19 restrictions had just been lifted and many people were craving meaningful connections. “The seniors had been isolated for so long,” says Boyd. “Being with the babies and talking with the moms brings them so much joy.”

The club manages the Circle of Life – Little Lions Facebook page, which is where interested parents can find out how to get involved. Even though the program is still in its infancy, the program model has become so popular that it is now offered by eight Lions clubs in the province.

When asked what babies and seniors like to do together, 95-year-old Helen “Nell” Spurrell who lives in Bishops Gardens Senior Living, says, “Well, you just take them up in your arms. That’s what you do with babies.”

While there is plenty of time for cuddles, the residents also recite nursery rhymes and sing songs they sang with their own children many years ago. “Daisy, Daisy” and “You Are My Sunshine” are two of the favorites, says Stephanie Neville, a recreation therapist at Bishops Gardens.

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The visits provide a special level of comfort for the seniors with dementia. Seeing the young mothers with their babies and hearing the familiar old songs connects them with happy memories. Family members have reached out to praise the program, saying their loved one is more alert and engaged after the babies visit.

“It’s so wonderful to see the joy on the seniors’ faces,” says Boyd.

For the young mothers at home or on parental leave, the gatherings also help relieve their own feelings of isolation, allowing them to meet other moms and hear the stories of the experienced moms they visit.

But Spurrell says the seniors don’t give much advice to the new moms. “They’re doing their best. And the kids are so cute. I say, ‘Enjoy it while you can. You can see how fast time goes by.’”