A man in his 80s lying on the floor doing a finger-painting alongside a three-year-old is not something you see every day.
But perhaps it should be?
A group of Chorus customers have started visiting the Bright Futures Children’s Services Family Day Care centre to spend time doing activities with children.
Organised by Paula Cronan, Team Lead Community Connection at Chorus in Kwinana, the series of visits were inspired by experiences overseas, which show intergenerational interactions do a world of good for both the children and the older people taking part.
The benefits of intergenerational interaction
Experts say intergenerational care programs (a more formalised version of Chorus day care visits but based on the same principles) have proven social benefits which include:
- giving children the opportunity to learn from and connect with an older generation;
- improving children’s behaviours and attitudes towards older people;
- improving the general wellbeing of both the children and the older people;
- allowing older people to pass on their knowledge and experience to children in a meaningful way;
- enhancing older people’s experience of self-worth as they feel more valued for their contribution.
Days at day care loved by kids and customers
Paula said an intergenerational program was something the Chorus team had been hoping to introduce for a while, and she was thrilled with how well it was received by both young and old.
“We put three or four children in groups with each customer to do some activities they’d like,” she said.
“We’d matched the customers and children by their personalities and interests.”
“The customers just loved it. For a lot of them, their families are over east, so they don’t have a lot of contact with their grandchildren, or their grandchildren have already grown up and there are no young children around.”
The Chorus customers spent a couple of hours with the children, enjoyed a singalong, had morning tea with them, played organised games, and gave out cupcakes baked specially by the team in the Chorus Kitchen as small gifts.
“It’d bring tears to your eyes watching it,” Paula said. “And then each time they came back from the centre, our customers would start talking, reminiscing about their own childhood, their children, Christmases.
“It just made their day; it really did. They all asked me afterwards if we were going to continue doing throughout the year.”
Bringing back happy memories, and creating new ones
“Afterwards, he said, ‘Thank you so much for asking me to bring this, because I haven’t played it for ages and I forgot how much joy it brings me’. Now he brings it every week.”
Paula said Chorus hopes to continue with the visits in 2020, and said several other day care centres had expressed a wish to be involved.
“It’s something different,” she said. “It’s a fresh approach. Instead of doing the same things over week in, week out, it’s something interesting for our customers to do. It brings back a lot of happy memories for them.”
“It gives them something to look forward to. You can see them planning as soon as we get back from a visit, ‘What can I do with them next time?”