Bringing together the young and the young at heart

Issue: Volume 97, Number 17

Posted: 19 September 2018
Reference #: 1H9kwj

An intergenerational care programme is bringing joy and learning opportunities to everyone involved.

Four-year-old Amelia stands outside the Village at the Park rest home, face flushed and full of smiles. She is one of eight children from the neighbouring early learning centre who have come to participate in a music session at the home. 

While the elderly residents clapped their hands and sang songs such as ‘Auld Lang Syne’, the children used instruments to add to the music and danced with ribbons and scarves. 

Amelia’s favourite part was being “turned around and dancing” and using the ribbons. She is looking forward to visiting the rest home again because she had fun. She knows the residents had a good time too “because they were smiling”. 

The Park Early Learning Centre Manager Sarah Jimmieson says the aim of the intergenerational care programme is to build a sense of community and develop friendship through tuakana teina relationships.

Amelia dances with a ribbon as the rest home residents sing.

 “The children develop a relationship with the residents and they really respect them. For some children their grandparents aren’t in the area; they might live overseas, so it’s an opportunity for them to really enjoy time with other adults. They learn that they can give to others and can be valuable members of society,” she says.

 “I suppose in a way there’s an understanding of the ageing process too, that we are all different and it’s how we’re all different that makes up a community.”

 This was the first time the programme held a music session, although other activities, such as buddy reading, art, and swimming lessons for children in the rest home pool, have been held since the centre opened.

All along the footpaths between the rest home and the centre painted footprints of both adult and child-sized feet mark out pathways and connections.

Residents also volunteer their time to visit children at the early learning centre. One resident comes to share his skills and work alongside the children at the carpentry table, while another brings her dog in with her.

Two Massey University researchers are currently studying the programme, with one looking at how the environment plays a role in enhancing interaction between older adults and children, while the other is investigating whether community participation improves psychosocial outcomes for both older adults and children.

The intergenerational care programme supports the Te Whāriki aspiration for children to grow up as “competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society”.

 “We are living and cohabitating as one big community,” says Sarah.

 “The programme is mutually beneficial to both parties, it’s not just the older adults that are getting something out of it or the children that are getting something out of it – it’s both sides.”

Although not all early learning centres may be situated adjacent to a rest home, the programme can be adapted and applied in other locations. Sarah says the best way to begin a programme of this sort is to have a discussion with a local rest home to see what they have available and what they are open to.

“It’s quite rewarding even for the teaching team and residents’ carers to see these interactions,” she says.

“We go over to the retirement village for walks with the children. Something so simple as seeing a child walking down a hallway with a teacher has made someone's day and I think that’s quite special.” 

What kids are saying

“My favourite part was dancing.” – Georgia, 4

 “I liked everything, it was fun.” – Amelia, 4

 “The ribbons were my favourite because we got to hold them and wave them around.” – Lucy, 4

 “One thing I liked is the smell, it smelled delicious, it smelled like lollies.” – Jimmy, 5

 “I liked the ribbons because they were really pretty.” – Charlie, 3

“Dancing was more fun here.” – Harlow, 4

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 3:02 am, 19 September 2018

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