“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

Dubbo Photo News - - Front Page - By NATALIE HOLMES

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

PHOTO: WENDY MER­RICK

Old and young to­gether: Back, Joyce Mackan­der, Tracy Hanna, Chase An­drew, Bec Higgs, front, Reg­gie Ber­ry­man, Emily Gar­dener, Bill Langby.

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