ABC’s Old People’s Home For 4-Year-Olds has tugged at the heartstrings of people across Australia, when seeing what happens when you pair our oldest and youngest members of the community.
Intergenerational programs aren’t a new idea, with aged care residences, kindergartens, schools, and community groups regularly spending time together.
We have seen how valuable these programs are, with our own aged care residences and respite homes being involved in programs with students of all ages. We love seeing the positive outcomes that come out of these relationships for the health, wellbeing and happiness of our residents and clients.
Once a fortnight Grade 4 students from Lysterfield Primary School walk from their classroom to Carinya House, Lysterfield. Carinya is a respite home for those aged 65 or older, or those with early-onset dementia, which provides carers with an opportunity for some time out.
Together, the students and our clients spend the afternoon playing games and doing art and craft activities, ending with a shared afternoon tea.
This intergenerational program has only started earlier this year, but staff from both Carinya and the school are seeing wonderful outcomes, as well as big smiles on faces of everyone involved, young and old alike.
Grade 4 teacher Rachel said that the children are always excited to visit the clients at Carinya and want to plan activities for the next time they visit.
“They’ve made real relationships with the clients; they remember each other, and they have even given each other nicknames which is so lovely and funny.”
Rachel says parents have noticed their children talk more about what they’ve done when they go home, after spending the afternoon at Carinya.
“The students are really excited to tell their parents what they’ve done,” said Rachel.
“Some of our students don’t tend to talk about their day too much at home, but parents are telling me that when they come home, they can’t wait to talk about what they’ve been up to, which is fantastic.”
Seeing the two groups interact, the students are engaged, confident, and caring, and the residents are laughing, and revelling in the presence of the young ones.
It’s clear that they know the clients and are comfortable having conversations with them, and want to help with the activities on offer, which range from snakes and ladders, Jenga and mini-golf to painting and drawing.
Whatever the students or the clients have an interest in, the group tries to facilitate it.
Student, Emerson chats to Robert about his picture, which is drawn on a tile which will be used in matching areas at Carinya and the school.
“I really like coming here,” he said. “We get to meet people that we haven’t met before and have conversations with them.”
Molly agrees, “I like coming here because we have fun with the clients, and we do new and different activities, like the tile drawings and rock paintings.”
Rachel says there is often a lot of laughter coming from the two spaces which are utilised for the group’s visit, where they split into small groups and rotate around 4 or 5 activities.
“The clients are really interactive with the kids. They always say how much they enjoy having them here, and that they’re laughing all the time. It’s just really nice.”
A common theme from the clients around why they enjoy having the students come and visit is simple – it brings back memories of their own children. Robert is one of the clients who say this.
“It really brings back the memories of my kids, when they were younger. I have five children and I remember them from this age, through school and now. So, I know all about little sneaky school children,” he says with a laugh.
Sid, another client is often seen laughing loudly while playing. It is very clear that he is competitive and enjoys a bit of friendly banter with the students.
“It’s very enjoyable,” he says. “It’s a bit of a laugh, it’s really great. They go to a lot of effort, and I like the way they try to win!”