Forging friendships young and old

Residents at Albert Moore Gardens enjoying the company of 8-month-old Jesse during the playtime session aimed at connecting elderly and young children. Photo: Rachel Mounsey
Residents at Albert Moore Gardens enjoying the company of 8-month-old Jesse during the playtime session aimed at connecting elderly and young children. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

The scene looks like a typical play group: sparkly dress ups hang haphazardly in the corner, dollies, trucks, hula-hoops and other toys are strewn across the floor and small children are buzzing around delightfully twirling in play; the only difference being, there is a large group of elderly people, who are also delightfully joining in with the action.

Upon arrival mid morning on a Tuesday, at the RSL LifeCare Albert Moore Garden's (formerly Bimbimbie ) recreation room, bursts of laughter and cheerful play chatter can be heard, even before entering the building.

According to Playgroup NSW, intergenerational playgroup sessions improve the wellbeing and spirits of the elderly; whilst for young ones: interacting with a whole new group of people can give a "whole new persepective on life".

With the aim of connecting generations, Sapphire Life Church recently relocated it's playgroup sessions to RSL Lifecare -Albert Moore Gardens.

Key organiser Janita Fernando, was inspired to set up the playgroup after her daughter's positive experiences at Pambula's Imlay House intergenerational daycare.

"We'd seen amazing relationships form between her and the residents at Imlay House and although daycare is different to playgroup we thought it would be nice to try it out in another setting."

Residents join in a circle time game at the playgroup. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Residents join in a circle time game at the playgroup. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

The playgroup has grown in popularity since it's first day of trial, three weeks ago. Now in it's fourth week, Ms Fernando said the number of elderly attending has increased, as well as the number of families coming to playgroup, which has doubled to fourteen families.

Ms Fernando said the increasing popularity could be due to the atmosphere of forging new relationhships across generations.

"The beauty of playgroup is parents and caregivers stay with the children. That makes for three generations of connection. The elderly are sharing their knowledge with the parents and connecting with children, the children are responding to and socialising with their new found friends- it's a beautiful place to be,"

Ms Fernando explained the positive relationships her daughter, Hope, aged 3, has developed with the residents at Albert Moore.

"Everytime she makes something new[from the craft activities] she takes it over to one of the residents and tells them all about it. She is beginning to remember their names and talks about the sessions regularly, she's making more friends."

Miss Polly had a dolly: The elderly residents watch on as Hope, 3, delights in being Miss Polly. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Miss Polly had a dolly: The elderly residents watch on as Hope, 3, delights in being Miss Polly. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Megan Sharp said the 'grandparent' connection was one of the many reasons she attends the session with her 8 month old baby, Jesse.

"Jesse has wonderful grandparents in Wollongong. But it's nice to keep a connection with older adults as well playing with the kids at the same time."

Down the road in Eden, at the public library on a Thursday morning, a similar scenerio is taking place. Also in it's teething phase intergenerational storytime is gaining traction.

Elderly residents from RSL Lifecare - Roy Wotton Gardens are reading stories to a small group of children under five.

Ted, aged two and half is engrossed as Roy Mercado, 94, reads over a picture book about trucks and diggers.

"I'm a digger- I dig up the land," he reads with a gruff inflexion, before passing the book onto Mareen Swan, 92, who picks up where he left off.

"I wish I had of brought him along sooner," said Ted's Mum, Alexis Timms, "He's really warming up to it."

Just like the play group at Albert Moore Gardens- maybe it's an idea that's catching on.

Mareen Swan shares a laugh with the toddlers at Eden Public Library during Intergenerational storytime. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Mareen Swan shares a laugh with the toddlers at Eden Public Library during Intergenerational storytime. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Eden Public Library Intergenerational Storytime is held on the 1st Thursday of every month from 10.30am until 11.30 am.