“One of the things missing from aged care is the joy of children.”
The idea of an environment where both tots and the elderly are looked after together may seem unusual, but intergenerational care is quickly becoming a reality in the local area. Pictured enjoying time together are, left to right, Joyce Mackander, Reggie
THE idea of an environment where both tots and the elderly are looked after together may seem unusual, but intergenerational care is quickly becoming a reality in the local area.
Dubbo dance instructor Tracy Hanna recently held her Allabilitiesdanz kids class at the Holy Spirit aged care facility.
“It was a fully inclusive class with mums, bubs and seniors,” she explains.
Tracy says the outcome was astounding.
“The result was nothing short of incredible,” she told Dubbo Photo News. “It was just amazing.
“I can’t describe how it felt. To see my little one, two- and threeyear-olds happy, smiling, shaking hands with the seniors in their 70s, 80s and 90s was just awesome.
“They loved it. You could see the joy on their faces. Everybody got something out of it.”
Tracy believes there are huge benefits to children and older people mixing together.
“It keeps their (the seniors) mind centred when the children are there. They are back in a caring role. They seem to react very positively to being with the children.
“It’s also teaching the children to respect older people and how to talk to them.
“I think the inclusion is what makes it more successful.”
The classes are set to be held regularly at Holy Spirit and Tracy hopes to spread the activity further afield.
“I would love to do it in more nursing homes around Dubbo,” she said.
Holy Spirit activities coordinator Rebecca Higgs is thrilled to see the young children intermingling so well with the elderly residents and hopes it will become a permanent fixture.
“All the little kids are having fun and all the residents react and you see the sparkle in their eyes.”
Rebecca says the success of Allabilitiesdanz has led to more schools coming to visit.
“We have primary schools coming over, different classes of schoolkids having one on one playtime, they are having a good time. We are thinking of doing it (Allabilitiesdanz) every month or second month.
One of the reasons the gatherings work so well is that the children are happy to interact with the older people and don’t see age as a barrier to friendship.
“The littlies have no inhibitions,” Rebecca pointed out. “They don’t care, they don’t see wheelchairs and walking sticks, all the little kids see is just a person.
“It’s absolutely fabulous to see the magic that they have, seeing the children around the elderly, it’s beautiful. And the children don’t feel like they are learning but it makes them more compassionate for the older generation.”
While enhancing the children’s understanding of older generations, the interaction also has therapeutic benefits for the elderly.
“When the children are here, and afterwards, they (the residents) are feeling happy and contented.
“We are seeing that they are having meaningful engagement, their brain activity becomes clearer, they are making eye contact, even those with behavioural issues decrease. It’s enhancing their sensory skills, firing up their system by getting their heart ticking and their soul engaged.
Most of them would have had children around them all their life. They like having children around, it makes them feel like their old selves and brings back memories. In aged care, there’s not always children and grandchildren around so it’s something so familiar. Bringing the children into the nursing home hits their heart and soul.”
Future planning for Catholic Healthcare (which runs Holy Spirit and St Mary’s Villa) will hopefully incorporate some form of child-related care.
“We are putting a proposal together to get a multi-functional room to have a creche or childcare centre. That’s what they are doing in Europe and America – building aged care facilities with childcare. It’s so innovative and seen some amazing results,” Rebecca pointed out.
“It’s definitely something that we are looking into, for sure.”
The concept is set to become a reality in Wellington where operators of Maranatha House aim to build a childcare centre adjacent to the existing aged care facility.
Maranatha board vice-chair Terry Frost told ABC Western Plains of the plan.
“We have to give them a quality of life and this was a way of doing that. It seemed like a natural progression. There are facilities where children are bused to aged care centre and the aged are bused to childcare centres. Research has shown that the elderly become more aware and they readily involve themselves. One of the things missing from aged care is the joy of children.”
Queensland’s Griffith University commenced the Intergenerational Care Project in June 2017. Funded by Dementia and Aged Care Services, the program aims to ‘bring together different generations to share experiences that are mutually beneficial’.
According to the project’s website, “typically, programs involve interactions that promote social growth and learning between the young and the old”.
“For older adults, intergenerational programs have shown psychological benefits by creating a sense of purpose and enhancing dignity, and have led to changes in community expectations of existing care and support services available to older people, including those living with dementia. For children, intergenerational programs have benefits in terms of psychological and social development, and there is some evidence that intergenerational contact reduces delinquency in young adults.”
Currently there are two models of community care being studied between older people with cognitive decline (and their carers) and children aged between 3 and 5 years.
The dual campus model features aged day care and child day care centres housed on the same site with shared infrastructure and facilities. Children and older people engage in shared activities for one to two hours, twice a week.
The visiting campus model features separately located centres with either the children or older people transported to a multi-function room housed within one of the centres for joint activities for one or two hours, twice a week.
This is the first time that different models of intergenerational care have been formally trialled and evaluated in Australia.
A public forum about the project will be held at the university on November 22. More information can be found at intergenerationalcare.org.
“One of the things missing from aged care is the joy of children.” – Maranatha vicechair Terry Frost
Old and young together: Back, Joyce Mackander, Tracy Hanna, Chase Andrew, Bec Higgs, front, Reggie Berryman, Emily Gardener, Bill Langby.