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Polly Hill Intergenerational Daycare

Making magic happen by combining children and seniors under one roof.

Photo of Faye Stilos
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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

Through this incredible process we are learning so much. We have a great numberof people giving us advice with answering the questions. The one issue we kept coming across during the application was not having all files on JPEGs and so figuring out how we could add them in. We are fortunate to have an amazing team of people that helped guide us through some of those issues. We came through reworded and changed many of the answers to make them more inspirational and visually appealing.

Name or Organization

Polly Hill Intergenerational Daycare


We are located in Toronto, Ontario, to start.

What is your stage of development?

  • New Innovator, with less than one year of experience in ECD


  • Non - Profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Describe your submission in one clear sentence

Polly Hill Intergenerational Daycare will be a non-profit daycare housed in a retirement home to promote the mutually-beneficial learning between seniors and children throughout the day.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

The intergenerational daycare’s time has come. Seniors are more active and are living longer but we don’t view them as productive members of society. The wealth of knowledge and depth of connection is being lost but we believe that seniors can be “game changers” for our kids and society. An intergenerational daycare helps kids develop empathy, tolerance and compassion. Seniors benefit from more joy, increased energy, decreased depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation. We are building more than a daycare; we are building a new way to raise our kids and respect our seniors.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Polly Hill Intergenerational Daycare will be a daycare, for children 0-4, housed within a seniors’ home offering integrated daily activities for seniors and children. Activities will involve the sharing of skills, knowledge, or experience between young and old. The seniors are invited to choose activities that will allow them to participates in the daycare’s daily programming. They can also be involved in our outdoor time, where we will have a garden, and a natural playground. Polly Hill is being developed in a very methodical manner to ensure we truly meet the needs of the people we are trying to serve. The initial phase will offer a Summer Camp program for seniors and children for us to test out programming and understand each group’s needs and wants. The second phase will be to set up a nursery program with morning and afternoon sessions that will provide us with insights about physical space. The final phase will be to open a daycare within a seniors’ home with fully integrated intergenerational programming. Other intergenerational programs cater only to seniors in retirement homes but we will extend our programming seniors living in the community to ensure that we have greater impact. They will be able to purchase a subscription and utilize the services as they want/need. We will use the data we collect about their experiences to advocate for Social Prescribing where healthcare professionals make referrals to community-based services like those at Polly Hill.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

By bringing seniors into the daily lives of children we are hoping to help them develop empathy, compassion and tolerance and eliminate any fears of seniors. Research has shown that children in intergenerational learning environments benefit in these ways, and by being exposed to a diversity of role models will help reduce bullying at later stages. In addition, seniors that interact with children show increased laughter and joy and reduced levels of depression and feelings of isolation.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Named for Canadian Early Childhood Innovator, Polly Hill, our intergenerational daycare will be the first of its kind in Ontario. The premise is one that is deeply rooted in best practices and is demonstrated in countless cultures around the world: loving and attentive grandparents can have a transformative effect on the lives and outcomes for children, especially in their earliest years, between 0 and 4. How might we take an individualist, isolated society and create this vision? At Polly Hill, we believe in integrating children and seniors in one space -- regardless of whether they are from the same family. In fact, the vision for our work is that seniors and the very young are brought together in a co-programmed facility that is mutually beneficial, and upholds the values of intergenerational learning and care. The outcome is a better quality of life for all involved. The daycare will be run just like any other daycare with respect to policies, programming and licensing. We will plan activities according to four learning pillars: children’s interests, senior’s interests, sensory play, and access to nature. Some examples of activities will be arts and crafts, circle time, singing songs, story time, outdoor/indoor gross motor and sensory play. We will also follow a play-based approach. According to a recent article on a well-known parenting website, Our Kids, play-based preschools have more unstructured or free-play time that involves open-ended activities like dress-up, sensory, kitchen, pretend and dramatic play and nature area, among others. Child development expert David Elkind, in his book The Power of Play, reinforces the idea that imaginative, creative, spontaneous play goes a long way toward fostering healthy development and setting the stage for both social and academic success later. Seniors living in the retirement home will have the opportunity to participate as they choose in the activities that have been programmed. Once relationships have been established and the children are having positive and meaningful interactions we will start working together with the senior home staff on the program. We will ask each senior what is one thing that they can bring to the program. This could be something they grew up doing, a hobby or something they want to learn alongside the children. For example, learning a card game, bringing in a musician to teach the whole group an instrument (i.e. ukulele or recorder) or learning to garden. This will give the seniors a sense of purpose, knowing that they are contributing to create a positive learning environment for the children. We will also emphasize the importance of nature in our program. According to an article in Child care Canada “spending time in the outdoors helps children identify with nature, boosts physical and mental health, and helps children gain self-confidence and respect for the world around them.” We are looking for a senior residence that has a sufficient amount of outdoor space for us to set up an enriching outdoor environment. We have seen such amazing work by Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto that we want to bring them into our center to set up a healthy outdoor space that the children are able to play and learn. Seniors can help children build a garden or vegetable bed to learn how plants and food grows. Affordable, quality childcare is a challenge and so we are hoping that being co-located and sharing resources will help with some overhead costs. In addition, we want to build Polly Hill as a research centre where academics and community partners can help us evaluate and conduct research to improve the quality of our services and help bring intergenerational learning to other environments, particularly into disadvantaged communities. We also see the opportunity to create social enterprises within Polly Hill. One such idea is the Community Living Pilot where we extend the programming to seniors that are living independently in the community but may also be feeling isolated. This has the potential to generate some additional funds and possibly offset some of the costs for low-income families. It will also support our research and advocacy initiatives by helping us collect data to support innovative ideas like Social Prescribing where healthcare professionals refer patients to non-clinical programs. Patients could be prescribed programming like that offered by Polly Hill rather than medication. We would advocate for insurance companies and/or government to cover the costs rather than the senior as this would ultimately reduce the need for long-term costly social spending. Bringing all of the above together in one space will allow children and seniors to develop the meaningful interactions that are so important to the development of children as well as the quality of life for the seniors. Written by Grin News:

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Intergenerational programming brings benefits to children, seniors, the community and society which supports the need for such childcare settings. Children develop important life skills, gain knowledge about aging, and benefit from a diversity of perspectives and role models. Seniors gain numerous emotional, mental and physical health benefits including a decrease in depression and anxiety, and increase in overall mood. They feel a sense of purpose and feeling that they have value to give, and have a better quality of life through increased joy and laughter, making new connections and meaningful interactions. The community will benefit first by having a unique and innovative senior home that will become a “hub” or activity for all generations. It will help the senior home differentiate itself and create excitement in the community. It will help all people see seniors as contributing members of society. Beyond the day-to-day benefits, we believe this model will provide long-term societal benefits. The Nobel prize winning economist, James Heckman, posits that the best way to reduce deficits is to invest in quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children as it creates better education, health, social and economic outcomes that increase revenue and reduce the need for costly social spending. We believe that this model will provide a significant benefit for disadvantaged children and will conduct studies to identify any such benefits and societal implications.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

Intergenerational programs have yielded strong outcomes for children in developing social networks, communication skills and problem solving skills. One study showed that when a child is mentored by an adult, they are: 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs; 27% less likely to begin using alcohol; 52% less likely to skip school when they are teenagers. (Bosak, 2013) We will also strengthen communities to become more age-friendly by breaking down barriers between ages and stereotypes by one age group to another. In an article in General United, it discusses how research shows that when the generations come together everyone benefits, children and youth, older adults and the community at large. There are clear positive outcomes for all involved. And because of these interactions, adults are able to expand their social networks and stay physically active, which betters their health outcomes. Communities benefit when all are engaged and feel included. Intergenerational programs help to dispel age-related myths and stereotypes. They can also address societal concerns such as literacy, environmental issues, health, crime prevention, and much more. Public policies can support intergenerational programs through the promotion of intergenerational civic engagement and encouragement of intergenerational solutions to community issues. Connecting generations through programs and public policies makes sense.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

1. Polly Hill will be located in a mixed-income neighbourhood ensuring a diversity of families will have access to this model. 2. Beyond simply ensuring spots for low-income children, we will work with partners to develop evaluation methods and research studies to gain as much knowledge about the impact of this model on low-income children. We believe that our programming will support the findings of economist James Heckman that quality early childhood education is the best investment for disadvantaged children. We will use data to create and refine our programming and all aspects of the learning environment to create the highest quality of education. Our research will guide our advocacy efforts to support quality childhood education for low-income families and we will not only share our research but support other daycares to incorporate intergenerational learning into their programs. 3. Polly Hill is a non-profit and a social enterprise. Our emphasis is on creating a sustainable daycare and will pursue additional revenue-generating initiatives based on our model. One such initiative that was conceived through our Human-Centred Design Challenge days with OpenIdeo Toronto was the Community Living Pilot whereby seniors in the community can purchase a subscription to our programming. These additional revenues will help offset some of the costs thereby assisting low-income families.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (1500 characters)

In many countries grandparents, parents and children live together. This allows each person to help and learn from one another. The saying of "It takes a village to raise a child" is very fitting in this situation. This quote "is a proverb which means that it takes an entire community of different people interacting with children in order for children to experience and grow in a safe environment" (Wikipedia). This doesn't literally mean a "village" but many groups of people interacting to raise a child. For example, parents, teachers, grandparents, coaches, doctors and anyone else a child might have a meaningful interaction with. Children enjoy being around their grandparents and vice versa. Thus, this concept combines the two age groups in a safe and enriching environment and uses the senior home in a radically new way. Research shows that Retirement Homes are looking to build mini communities for their clients. What better way to add to these communities than to incorporate daycares in every senior residence? There are only a few intergenerational daycares across Canada. However, our programming aims to be running all day, everyday and not limited to once or twice a week for a couple of hours. Below is a video of our inspiration to begin this wonderful concept right here in Toronto. It’s Providence Mount St. Vincent Intergenerational Learning Centre in Seattle and their great program.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

We believe that intergenerational learning is the future of daycares and that seniors have untapped potential that can add great value to a young child’s development. By 2051, retirees are expected to represent a quarter of Canada’s entire population, and by 2030, roughly 80% of new housing demand will come from people entering retirement, according to the Conference Board of Canada. Given these trends, there is ample opportunity to expand the impact of the Polly Hill model. Polly Hill’s model is unique to any intergenerational daycare in that we plan on having programs both for seniors that are co-located in the retirement home but also for seniors living in the community. This opens up our services to a larger number of users in the community as we are not restricted to the seniors in the retirement home. Part of our approach to learning is to document every phase of the journey of developing Polly Hill so that we can reflect on our learnings and create resources and materials for others looking to replicate our model. We believe strongly in the Polly Hill model that we are building and will actively look for opportunities to help daycares try intergenerational learning either as fully integrated centres like Polly Hill or by incorporating some intergenerational activities into their regular programs. We are building more than a daycare; we are building a movement that sees value in our seniors especially in helping raise our children.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

Polly Hill Intergenerational Daycare has done extensive research on the benefits and downfalls of having an integrated program that involves children and seniors. According to the Ontario Population Projections “The number of seniors aged 65 and over is projected to almost double from 2.3 million, or 16.4 percent of population, in 2016 to 4.6 million, or 25.0 per cent, by 2041”. Which means there will be a growing need of senior residences across Ontario. The concept is to have children and older adults interacting daily. Many people think of senior homes as depressing, boring and dull. Setting up a daycare inside a senior home will bring life, meaning and laughter into the lives of the seniors. This idea has many benefits for the seniors and the children therefore, making it a wonderful concept. The way it will work is seniors who want to interact with the children will sign up to the intergenerational program. Polly Hill staff will create the preschool program with various activities that will be geared towards the interests of the children and seniors. For example, circle time (singing songs, reading stories, playing instruments), arts and crafts, building with toys, outdoor time, etc. The seniors that are signed up will have a chance to look at the weekly program and sign up for the activities they want to participate in with the children. This way seniors feel like they are making an impact in these children’s lives. The stage that our project is on at this point is prototyping, discussing, collecting data and research. We have had the opportunity to set up meetings with three existing Retirement Homes. The meetings went extremely well and we were able to build our contact list as well as take away various concerns we might have overlooked. For example, when visiting an existing home we need to think about if they have the space to accommodate a daycare. Even though they might love the idea, not having the space is an issue. In addition, we were part of a two day workshop that combined many professionals, parents and volunteers to come together and help prototype our idea. In those two days we discovered things like special activities that seniors and children can participate in. For example, learning to play an instrument together or going on field trips like to a park or museum. However, we also talked about what wouldn't work or barriers we might come across. For example, when going on field trips how do we keep children safe as well as the seniors. We now understand that incorporating outings into our program will mean that we will need a ratio of 1 Registered Early Childhood Educator per 8 children and also 1 Senior Caregiver per 6 seniors (depending on abilities and disabilities). In addition to the professionals we will also need a number of volunteers. These findings have helped us further develop this concept and perfect it.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (1500 characters)

Although there are only a few fully integrated intergenerational daycares in the world, their success gives us insight into the viability of our business model. The Seattle-based Intergenerational Learning Centre opened in 1991 with 12 children and by the end of the first month there was such demand that their enrollment jumped to 30 children. We anticipate the same excitement for Polly Hill and believe this will translate to a full daycare within the first 3 months of operation. Our greatest challenge will be finding the right physical location as Toronto is one of the most expensive cities in the world. An affordable space, in a mixed-income neighbourhood will be a challenge to find and this can have a significant impact on our revenue model. We have a staged plan for implementing Polly Hill, allowing us time to find the best location. We are also fortunate to have a strong group of advisors including an architect, insurance expert, real estate agents and others who will help us with the physical location so that this doesn’t become a barrier. Although we are a non-profit we plan to run the centre using market-based approaches to ensure that Polly Hill is sustainable.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (1500 characters)

Polly Hill teamed up with the OpenIDEO Toronto Chapter, for a two-day design series to tackle the Early Childhood Innovation Prize challenge. The design series brought together parents (with children), designers, ECE experts from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities and members of the Polly Hill team. The first day was dedicated to immersing into the area, identifying challenges and ideating solutions. The group broke into three teams that tackled three personas that qualify under the People & Places mission: a parent needing affordable childcare, a senior needing more engagement and a senior’s home executive looking to create change in this space. The teams spent the week between the two design events prototyping to make these ideas come alive, and getting feedback. Much of the feedback we received on the idea of an intergenerational daycare was positive but we did encounter concerns about our Community Living Pilot, and realized the importance of our target market and the language we use in conveying an innovative idea that people are not expecting. We have been exploring this idea for over a year but having been guided through a human centred design process not only helped us generate some new ideas but it helped us to focus on what needs our immediate attention. We are early childcare professionals and so our understanding of seniors’ needs is limited. We need a better understanding if we want to offer services to them to have greater impact and to generate more revenue.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

This idea all started when my business partner Diana Cotaras came across a video on social media about Providence Mount St. Vincent senior home and The Intergenerational Learning Center that is located directly inside the residence. They have an award-winning child care program that has been around for 27 years. Their program touched a chord with Diana. She sent me the video and asked if I was interested in starting a similar program in Toronto. I immediately said yes, that’s when our journey of business partners began. We both knew that one day we wanted to run our own centres.When we came across this amazing concept we agreed that we wanted to bring it to Toronto. Right away we started researching intergenerational daycares in Canada and discovered that there were only a few which were only partially integrated. These findings validated our idea even more of going forward and trying to make this happen. We right away started seeking assistance and advice from the School of Social Entrepreneurs of how to move this idea forward. We first started thinking of what we would call our daycare. That’s when Diana suggested we name it after her grandmother Polly Hill. She was a pioneer in Early Childhood Education and launched an astonishing career involving numerous child development initiatives. She won the Order of Canada in Early Childhood Education in 1997 and coined the phrase ‘terrible twos.” In addition, she lectured regularly and wrote some 30 child-related publications. We felt like it was such an amazing opportunity to honor this wonderful woman and name our daycare after her. That is when Polly Hill Intergenerational Daycare began. Through SSE we were partnered with an incredible mentor Colin Asselstine from RSA Canada. He was extremely helpful and answered our many questions as well as give us a lot of advice. He helped us build a presentation for when we go to meetings with Senior Homes and also with our business plan. In addition, we hired a lawyer to complete all our paperwork for registering as a non-for-profit with the city. I am a mother of two beautiful children, a three year old daughter and a one year old son. I love being a mother and enjoy watching my children grow and develop daily. Diana is also a mother of a smart and talented 25 year old woman. We have a combined experience of over 35 years in Early Childhood Education.It brings us great joy being part of the development of children. Making a difference early on will positively impact them later on in their lives. We believe in play based learning and have observed that children learn best in an environment that promotes equality and differences. We are professional individuals who are motivated to change the lives of children and elderly adults alike. In addition, we strongly believe that intergenerational daycares are the future.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (500 characters)

We are fortunate to have a large group of supporters that is growing daily through some key relationships we’ve developed with the School for Social Entrepreneurs, Courage Co-Lab, RSA Canada and OpenIDEO Toronto Chapter. We are still looking for more partners in the areas of seniors wellness, real estate development, and research. We want to build Polly Hill based on evidence-based research and need to partner with researchers that can help us do research and evaluate the services that we offer.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We would be most appreciative for support in the following three categories: 1. Seniors’ wellness and programming: We will eventually work closely with staff at the retirement home to address this gap but before that we still need to add someone with this type of expertise to our team. 2. Operations support: We work full-time and have family commitments that make it difficult to move some things forward quickly. We need support with operations to be able to run the Summer Camp pilot this summer and look for a small space to test out a Stand-Alone Program later this year. 3. Research: We want to evaluate our services and participate in research to better understand the effects of intergenerational learning. There are a lot of areas of research that we could participate in but need to develop partnerships with the organizations and researchers that could do that research. We need help figuring out how to design research to ensure we get the data that we need to support our continued growth and to identify new services such as social prescribing. 4. Fund Development: We know there are various grants that we can apply to for funding and people that would like to donate to our centre but we need help with prospect research and grant writing. We may also be able to apply for impact investment but need help with writing proposals.

Would you like mentoring support? [Relevant only for Early Submission Deadline]

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters) [Relevant only for Early Submission Deadline]

We would like mentoring support that will help us continue to innovate and ensure that Polly Hill is having the greatest impact it can. We want to ensure that our model has a strong foundation but that is adaptable to changing environments, and that we are actually creating the value and impact we intend. Through this challenge we have learned just a tiny bit about Human Centred Design and how important that process can be to creating value for the person(s) we are trying to serve and so we would like support in furthering our understanding of Design Thinking.

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? [Relevant only for our early submission participants] (1500 characters)

Both Diana and I have been students at the School for Social Entrepreneurs and were fortunate to be paired with a mentor through their long-standing partnership with RSA Canada. We were mentored by Colin Asselstine who’s a Director of Claims Transformation & Vendor Management at RSA Canada. He helped us create and execute a powerpoint presentation that we would use with possible partners. Diana and I have a fear of presenting, however, Colin made us realize that this is our passion and dream and is what we know and live for so we just needed to focus on that and not worry about the people across the table. We learned through this mentoring program how rewarding it is to work with a mentor. We have also received mentorship from Chryssa Koulis the Managing Director from the School of Social Entrepreneurs. Chryssa has been by our side from the very beginning. She helped us with our business plan. We were extremely overwhelmed because we had done our research and found out that making a business plan was a long process. She gave us some pointers of where to start and continued to be there with us every step of the way. Looking over things and guiding us through it. Chryssa continues to support us in every way through our journey. We are very grateful and look forward to working with more mentors as we continue our journey with opening up Polly Hill Intergenerational Daycare.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc). Faye Stilos is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Polly Hill Intergenerational Daycare Diana Cotaras - Co-Founder and Executive Director at Polly Hill Intergenerational Daycare - Polly Hill’s website is under construction at the moment and will be up and running soon


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Photo of heather kelly

such a great idea!!! I hope this becomes a reality....

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