LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- In classrooms everywhere, this week is all about showing a little love.
“We’re making Valentines,” said Maria Peek.
In one classroom, in particular, it could be argued the love runs a bit deeper, and the students – definitely a bit older.
“We found out that this population really needs this,” said Kristine Burrows, director of older adult services for Easterseals Colorado.
What Easterseals did was start a first-of-its-kind program.
“This is the Easterseals older adults day program for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Burrows said. “There aren't any other programs like us."
That’s because most other programs cater to younger adults and children with disabilities.
"We've created this calmer, quieter environment where we move a little bit slower," she said.
It’s called the Oasis program. The classroom assistants focus on creative activities, exercise and stimulation.
Six of the participants actually live together - Linda, Mary, Theresa, Lisa, Missy and Maria Peek.
“They help each other, they rib each other," Burrows said.
They also have an amazing knack for taking care of others in their community and beyond.
The ladies make cards at Valentine's, pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving and at Christmas – some have long lists of those they want to send Christmas cards.
Experts say this kind of engagement is critical because the disabled population, just like the general population, is living longer than ever before.
"And they also have dementia on top of their intellectual and developmental disabilities," Burrows said. “They have mobility aids and hearing aids. They just have different needs.”
It’s a community taking care of its own.
"They're so engaged in the community," Burrows said.
Stimulation that feeds the mind and the heart.