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Young and old come together to boost overall wellbeing and social connection

The benefits of intergenerational friendships have been proved once again with some of Australia’s residential aged care facilities embracing programs that allow residents to form relationships with young children.

Jean Linehan, aged 103 years with Montessori Kindergarten children [Source: Resthaven]
Jean Linehan, aged 103 years with Montessori Kindergarten children [Source: Resthaven]

Mercy Place Parkville in Melbourne is one of the residential aged care facilities helping older Australians maintain social interaction and supporting social, emotional and cognitive development in younger children.

The weekly program, now in its second year, connects residents with 15 children aged between three and five years old from the Seahorse Room at The Royal Children’s Hospital Early Learning Centre.

Service Manager for Mercy Place Parkville, Maryann McCusker says the intergenerational activity is a highlight of the residents’ week with the children bringing “so much joy” to the facility.

“It’s wonderful to see residents who are sometimes reserved, thoroughly enjoying themselves, dancing and reading to the children,” she says.

“Intergenerational programs benefit everyone invited - enhancing language skills and supporting emotional, social and cognitive development in children, while also promoting positivity and general health in residents.”

Ms McCusker says it also provides opportunities for residents to connect with younger members of the community, while reflecting on their own families.

Resident of Mercy Place Parkville, Hank Span describes the visits as “so special.”

“I really love when the children visit my home,” he says.

“The program reminds me of my children and even makes me think of my childhood.”

A group of local kindergarten students paid their third visit to Resthaven at Bellevue Heights in South Australia to celebrate the United Nations International Day of the Older Person on 1 October.

Manager of Residential Services, Wendy Martin says the group of approximately 40 residents have enjoyed several visits from the children, where they were able to join a singalong and games.

“We just love nourishing those intergenerational connections, and the International Day theme was a perfect reason for another visit,” Ms Martin says.

Resident of Resthaven Bellevue Heights, Jean Linehan, 103, describes the visits as “wonderful.”

“Just watching them is so much fun,” she says.

“The children come up and look you right in the eye. They look at you as if they’re really interested in you.”

Kindergarten Director, Sally, says the children enjoy the experience.

“They love chatting with residents; the interactions and conversations they have are so precious.”

“One little boy said after today’s session that he loved doing the dancing, and he loved the way that the older people joined in, even though ‘we were standing up and they were sitting down’,” she says.

Ms Martin is hoping to increase the number of visits to the residents next year, with another two planned for this year.

“These intergenerational experiences are just wonderful – bringing out the wisdom of age and wonder of youth,” she says.

Harwin Retirement Village also enjoyed a visit from Year 8 students from Thomas More College last week, as part of a community service initiative.

The students cleaned, swept, weeded, pruned and assisted with food preparation and service before sharing morning tea with the residents, as well as playing board games, cards, eight ball and learning how to knit.

“The students loved the opportunity to meet new people and experience things they have never done before,” Teacher at Thomas More College Louise Eldridge says.

“Most importantly, the students were able to connect with the residents and establish relationships that we hope to foster and continue.”

Promotions and Events Coordinator at Harwin, Anna Zineko says the residents thoroughly enjoyed the students’ visit.

“Residents had a wonderful time engaging with the younger generation,” she says.

Intergenerational programs within aged care are proving invaluable at maintaining good mental health, which is incredibly important to the overall health and wellbeing of older people.

According to beyondblue, staying connected to others is critical to feeling happy and secure with social connection a protective factor against anxiety and depression. 

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