To address the growing divide between younger and older generations, intergenerational programs have been springing up around the world, reflecting the World Health Organisation’s Active Aging Framework to develop age-friendly cities.
Building on other aged-care initiatives like emotional support and four-legged therapists, these programs are designed to enhance learning and development for children as well, aiming to enrich social participation and inclusion, sense of community, respect and life-long learning, and include meaningful activities that are rewarding for all.
Australian researchers set out to help grow an evidence base and address barriers to their implementation, with encouraging results that are sparking more programs to be developed across the nation.
It’s a win-win-win
The research, run by Griffiths University in NSW, showed benefits for everyone involved, including children, older adults, organisations and the workforce.
The 16-week program was run across four facilities in Queensland and New South Wales and included older adults with early stages of cognitive decline and children aged 3-5 years.
It included one-on-one activities such as reading, painting, colouring, drawing and beading, and small group activities like singing, dress-ups, cooking and dancing. The evaluation identified those activities that were mutually beneficial for adults and children.
Overall results suggest that children developed greater confidence and communication skills, while older adults experienced more enjoyment and had better health and wellbeing, with enhanced mood and a greater sense of purpose.
An aged care worker reported, “Just seeing the joy that they were sharing and watching the little relationships growing and hand touching, wanting to be near them… And seeing the residents’ hearts light up too. So they’ll say, ‘I think they’re coming. Yes they’re coming’.”
Participating organisations gained greater insights into effective models of care for their residents, and while staff were initially daunted by it, they gained a broader skillset for designing programs and activities and reported greater job satisfaction.
“Yeah for me it’s always been about if you can make a difference in one person’s life it’s worth it,” said one aged care worker, “and these nine people, they’ve walked away with incredible memories.”
For one of the childcare workers, working with older adults was initially off-putting. “Before [the program] I just thought ew, I don’t want to clean that person… but after building the relationships and actually hanging out with them I could go and hang out with them all day.”
Economically, the researchers report that costs were minimal, depending on the nature of the model and number of sessions.
Meanwhile, a new intergenerational learning centre is being developed in Mornington, Victoria, to give children and aged care residents the opportunity to come together on weekdays through activities such as arts and crafts, music, lunch and storytelling.
It aims to help stimulate the older residents and give them opportunities to laugh and play, while children can experience what it’s like to be part of an extended family and interact with older people, learn about aging and develop empathy for people with disabilities.
Near Mildura, north-west Victoria, a childcare centre was built near an aged-care facility this year to foster structured intergenerational activities, following the success of a Music Together Generations program at Chaffey Aged Care.
For other centres wishing to jump on board, Griffith University has provided operational guidelines and a public toolkit in the hope that these programs will become a part of Australian life.
Header image via The Conversation https://theconversation.com/a-new-project-shows-combining-childcare-and-aged-care-has-social-and-economic-benefits-99837