The Value of Intergenerational Activity in Aged Care Facilities

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St Kevin’s have been running programs with their students visiting aged care facilities for some years and recently I received these heart-warming photos of secondary students visiting with the residents of the Royal Freemasons Coppin Suites in Moubray, Melbourne. The residents enjoy the interaction with the students, as they often miss their own grandchildren whom they sometimes don’t see much for various reasons,such as they are living interstate or overseas. The students also gain a lot from these visits, as is illustrated by one student in particular who wrote back to the Lifestyle person at the facility, thanking her for allowing him to spend time with the residents. He particularly singled Donald Ross out in his letter, saying that Don had made the greatest impression on him. You may remember that I wrote about Don in another blog; he has limited hearing and speaking and was unfortunately the victim of financial elder abuse. As a result of a court case against the abuser he was able to sell his asset and received sufficient finances to move to this lovely facility, which I was able to assist him to find.

The student expressed that he now has a whole different perspective of living life to the fullest with a disability through Don sharing his story with him, something he said he could never have imagined before. For the students it’s not just about being helpful, it can be a powerful experience as it’s often the only interaction they might have had with an older person.

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The students gain a valuable insight into how people lived in another generation through the stories the residents share with them. It helps to break down barriers and gives these young adults an understanding of the challenges faced in earlier times, and the challenges elderly people face now.

The social benefits of mixing elderly aged care residents with the youngest generation was the focus of an experiment funded under an initiative of the Victorian Government Department of Health Aged Care Department. An intergenerational playgroup was conducted in a residential aged care facility at Percy Baxter Lodges, North Geelong in 2009. The benefits accruing to the elderly residents, parents and children attending was evaluated as positive for all three groups. The residents became more actively involved and confident in interacting with the children over time and the children came to see walking frames, walking sticks and wheelchairs as quite normal and enjoyed being doted upon by the residents. One of the parents noted that her daughter was happy to just have someone sit quietly with her as she played, listening and talking with her patiently; the mother had not realised the value of this herself, filling her child’s day with frantic activity.  So, a great learning experience all round. Playgroups Victoria provides information on running intergenerational playgroups.

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