Some of Knox’s youngest and oldest residents are making ‘friends for life’ through a new Council program.
Children from The Basin Kindergarten and residents from Martin Luther Homes Aged Care have been enjoying reciprocal visits and activities such as reading and painting, says the kindergarten’s Jodie Stephens.
“Both the children and residents have been excited and can’t wait for the next visit,” she says.
“The children would ask me every day: ‘Are we going to the aged care home today?’
“The residents say one of the things they love is looking at the children’s faces and listening to their stories. Families have also supported this program beautifully.
“One of the children, the first time he met one of the residents, turned around and said to us, ‘I just made a friend for life’. He really connected with this resident because they both play golf.”
The resident, Don Brown, is a former local primary school principal who describes the program as a wonderful experience.
“The children are always so keen to see us, so it is very easy to form friendships with them,” he says.
“I was dubious at first at whether I would be able to relate to the children but that all changed when Tom, younger than some of my great grandchildren, said about me that he had found a friend for life. My daughter also attended the same kinder nearly 60 years ago.”
Tom says he’s looking forward to seeing his new friend’s paintings.
“I know he is a good painter and would like to see one of his paintings one day,” he says.
“He is my best friend for life.”
Council is exploring expanding the program within Knox. The initiative aligns with Council’s Child, Youth and Seniors Plan, which aims to identify opportunities for intergenerational activities that build respect and understanding and strengthen community connections.
Jodie says there is a wealth of research about the benefits of intergenerational interaction for both children and seniors.
“In Boston, they’ve actually set up a secondary school and aged care on the same ground so they’re integrated and supporting each other’s programs,” she says. “Over time, researchers have said that the dementia or the decline in skills is a lot slower when they’ve had the intergenerational programs occurring.”
Martin Luther Homes’ Debbie Gray says the residents have “absolutely embraced” the program.
“Our first session was at the kinder to ensure the children felt comfortable in their own environment and from the minute we walked in the door to a chorus of ‘they’re here’, not one of the children was afraid to interact with the residents,” she says.
“Since that first session, the children have visited Martin Luther Homes, which has been wonderful and allows for many more of our residents to enjoy the wonderful experience. The children bring such a happy feeling to the facility; it’s just infectious. The benefits of this program are endless.”