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New TV show highlights the benefits of seniors interacting with children

A new Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television series, produced by Endemol Shine Australia, will air tonight, bringing to life a documentary about intergenerational connection between four year old kindergarteners and residents in a retirement village in Narrabeen, New South Wales.

Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds star, 92 year old Stuart, a former a pilot in WWII, playing with the excitable Jax and Michaela. [Source: ABC]
Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds star, 92 year old Stuart, a former a pilot in WWII, playing with the excitable Jax and Michaela. [Source: ABC]

The Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds series explores the benefits of children interaction with older people through a social experiment, and is believed to be the first study of its kind in Australia held at RSL LifeCare - ANZAC Village in North Sydney.

Adapted from the UK series of the same name, 11 retirement home residents get to spend time and play with a group of 10 pre-schoolers, to see if the intergenerational contact will 

improve the health and wellbeing of the older people.

The show explores the participating residents' fears with ageing, like frailty and dementia, and how the children help their new friends overcome these fears. 

It also shows in-depth insight into the loneliness and social isolation elderly people experience in Australia.

There are four specialists, Professor in Geriatric Medicine, Sue Kerrle; Geriatrician, Dr Stephanie Ward; Aged Care Physiotherapist, Nicola Kertanegara; and Child Psychologist, Dr Evan Kidd, who watch the interaction between the residents and children over the study.

This social experience is analysed by the experts in the field, who measure if there are quantifiable and measurable changes of the older group physically and mentally and if there is development growth of the children.

Professor Kerrle says, “In Australia, modern medicine has increased our life expectancy but not necessarily the quality of those extra years of life. What is the point of those extra years of life, if we don’t actually have life in those years? 

“In our experiment, we are not expecting miracles. These people are getting near to the end of their lives but it often only takes a small thing to tip the balance between waiting to die and enjoying the rest of your life.”

Over seven weeks, the students will attend the aged care facility and the series will document whether the children are able to bring vitality back to the weary limbs of the residents.

Geriatrician, Dr Ward, says, “I am thrilled to be part of a programme that allows the voices of older Australians to be heard widely and shows us just how extraordinary the stories of the older members of our population are. 

“I think it’s crucial we explore interventions that can restore connection, purpose and joy to the lives of older Australians, and help remind them of the many skills and abilities they possess.”

The TV series has built a special pre-school within the aged care/retirement home and plans activities of physical activity, social interaction, and learning, with the intention of creating happiness for the residents.

Endemol Shine Australia Chief Executive Officer, Mark Fennessy says, “Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds is a carefully crafted mix of science, heart and humour. 

“With its unique cast of characters from two fundamentally different worlds, it has the potential to be the most insightful, uplifting and talked about show of 2019.”

ABC Head of Factual, Steve Bibb, says, “Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds is another fine example of what the ABC does best – asking questions and finding solutions to important issues in our society.

“This clever and inspiring series does that with incredible warmth and great heart as it explores the increasing isolation and loneliness of older Australians.”

Professor Kerrle adds, “This has been a wonderful experience watching the effects of the children on our older adults, and also the way the children have responded to their adults. 

“It has certainly exceeded my expectations in terms of the increased physical activity and social interactions in our older people and it is great to see their inner child come out occasionally, and to watch them having fun again. 

“We need to work out a way that more older people can benefit from this type of interaction. It is something that was common once within extended families, and we need to bring it back.”

The five-part series will air on the ABC and ABC iView from tonight at 8.30pm, and is narrated by ABC Political Reporter, Annabel Crabb. 

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