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Nursing Home Hosts Childcare Learning Center

  • Need: More childcare and preschool options in a rural Minnesota community.
  • Intervention: A local nursing home built a child learning center whose structure offers an educational setting for childcare as well as regular intergenerational activities between children and elderly residents.
  • Results: The partnership has resulted in benefits for all parties involved, instilling a sense of youth in the elderly and selfless care in the children.


Benedictine Living Community of Ada logo

In Ada, Minnesota, the demand for more childcare and preschool options was growing. The sole preschool in town held classes only 2 days a week, and daycare operations didn't seem to have enough openings to meet the town's need. Because Norman County offers the lowest childcare reimbursement rate in the state of Minnesota, there is less incentive for entrepreneurs to open their own daycare businesses. During this time, the Benedictine Living Community of Ada (BLC Ada) was applying for a Dekko Foundation grant to add an assisted living center on to their nursing home. One of the grant's stipulations was to provide an early childhood education center that would be attached to their building.

A local daycare provider was invited to work with BLC Ada's CEO to form a plan. After looking at several options, they settled on their own unique model. The Little Learners Early Childhood Education Center opened in January of 2014 and became an answer to their community's pressing concerns for their young children. Little Learners was built as an addition to BLC Ada, which already shared walls with Essentia-Ada Clinic/Hospital and the town's emergency medical service.

The Center's children have regular interaction with their "grandpals," a key component of the joint venture. Activities are scheduled twice a day, 5 days a week, and are designed for children and elderly residents to partake in together. Activities include reading, exercising, musical performances, games, crafts, primping, and snacks, to name a few.

Little Learners' child care services are licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Service. Scholarships for low-income families have been provided through the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. of Crookston and Early Learning Scholarships Program of Minnesota.

Services offered

Little Learners offers curriculum-based programs for a variety of ages:

  • Infants and toddlers (17 months to 36 months)
  • Preschool readiness (3 years to their 1st day of kindergarten)
  • Afterschool care (through age 12)

The partnership also provides:

  • meals for children (breakfast, lunch, and snacks)
  • Discounted Little Learners rates for BLC Ada and Essentia staff
  • Extended hours for child drop-off and pick-up (open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.)


The BLC Ada and Little Learners partnership has been beneficial to all parties involved. For BLC Ada, it has bridged the gap between residents and children. Staff testify that the interaction has renewed a sense of community spirit and youthfulness among residents. They have also noticed the intergenerational interaction has helped the children learn how to care for and about other people.

Families involved are also seeing benefits. The close quarters of Little Learners and BLC Ada make it convenient for staff who have children enrolled, as well as grandparents who get to see their grandchildren during daily activities. Many parents and relatives have expressed their appreciation for the interactive learning that benefits both parties.

Another positive measurement of the partnership's success is the number of children enrolled. Since they launched, Little Learners has more than doubled the number of children they initially predicted. They currently have 39 children enrolled in the program. About 12 of BLC Ada's staff have enrolled their children in Little Learners.

Little Learners has also earned a Parent Aware Rating, awarded to programs that use best practices to prepare children for kindergarten. The partnership has also become a model in the healthcare world, as BLC Ada's CEO has been contacted by multiple elderly living communities within the Benedictine Health System and Minnesota for replication tips.

Learn more about the partnership through these postings:

Early Education Spotlight: Little Learners, Minnesota's Leader In Early Learning "Think Small Blog," 2016.

Child care shortage, affordability remain as challenges in Minnesota, Grand Forks Herald, 2016.


  • Due to Ada's rural location, obtaining mandatory child care licensure in a timely manner through the state was difficult.
  • Financial start-up costs were significant. The partnership was helpful in that BLC Ada pitched in with costs until the center became self-sustaining.
  • Acceptance of a new business in the community was difficult for some, especially for other daycare providers.
  • The spreading of germs between children and elderly was constantly a threat. To keep sickness at bay, staff make sure communication remains strong between all facilities. They also limit cooking-related activities.
  • Because the demand for a learning center proved to be higher than predicted, Little Learners has outgrown its space.


  • Build a good relationship with your local home childcare centers. Reiterate your differences, but express appreciation for their work.
  • Hire someone knowledgeable about daycare centers, learning center services, and licensure who already has good rapport in the community.
  • Work with your local respite care organizations or nursing homes to intertwine children with the elderly.
  • Make sure you will have the funds to hire enough staff and build a sufficient amount of space to accommodate the projected number of children.
  • An educational curriculum can make your learning center a success. Choose wisely and get input from others who have used them.

Curriculum Used:

Contact Information

Jean Ann Bienek, CEO
Benedictine Living Community of Ada
Little Learners Early Childhood Education Center

Aging and aging-related services
Child care
Children and youth
Elderly population
Long-term care
Networking and collaboration

States served

Date added
January 26, 2016

Date updated or reviewed
May 15, 2018

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2018. Nursing Home Hosts Childcare Learning Center [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 23 January 2021]

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.