When young children and their parents arrive for a play date with residents of the Mirinjani aged care facility in Canberra, the joy can be seen on the faces of all.

By Penny Travers

When young children and their parents arrive for a play date with residents of the Mirinjani aged care facility in Canberra, the joy can be seen on the faces of all.

The elderly residents gather around the toddlers and babies as they play with balls, bubbles, boxes and blocks, laughing and encouraging their entertaining play.

“Everyone’s face lights up, there’s just something about children that particularly older people love,” Mirinjani chaplain Heather Potter said.

“You can see the joy in the faces of the residents.”

Two-year-old Nadal Gad dresses up
Nadal Gad, who turns two next month, entertains the Mirinjani residents.

Each Monday morning, ACT Playgroups facilitates an intergenerational playgroup.

“There’s no-one that comes through this door during the playgroup that doesn’t get some sort of benefit from what we’re doing,” volunteer and organiser Fiona Harris said.

Most of the residents at the aged care facility do not have family living in Canberra nor young relatives to interact with.

Similarly, many of the children and parents that attend live a long way from their extended families.

“In the ACT a lot of people move here for work and don’t necessarily have extended family, so it’s a really nice way for children to experience the older generation,” Kirsten Cross from the ACT Playgroups Association said.

“It’s also really nice for the parents to be able to tap into some of the experience and resources that the aged care residents offer in terms of their own parenting experience and their own stories.

“It’s a really lovely thing to see those relationships develop.”

Reality check for new parents

Jennifer Onken joined the playgroup with her five-month-old daughter Alexandra as a way of connecting with older people.

“It’s good for her development; they love it, it makes me happy,” she said.

Ms Onken does not have relatives in Canberra and has found the stories and advice from the elderly residents helpful.

“It’s so hard in the world that we live in at the moment, you’re encouraged to be so independent, and that can be so difficult and isolating,” she said.

“You’re meant to have this perfect baby that sleeps, who does all these things, but in the age of our grandparents and with the older people here, they raised their family in a community and they got a lot of support from other people.

“Unless we make an effort to reach out and are humble enough to admit that life’s not as easy as we make it out to be, or TV makes it out to be, it can be so isolating and scary to have a baby that doesn’t sleep or cries all the time.

“So to get out and get a bit of a reality check and get some support is wonderful.”

Ashley Dillon said her son Jesse, who turns three in July, looked forward to the playgroup each week.

“My grandparents are in their 60s. We are on the younger side of generation Ys, so we’ve got three generations under 70,” she said.

“It’s an extra generation for him to get to know and interact with; he gets excited about going to visit ‘the old people’.”

Remembering years gone by

For residents like Ken Hutton, the playgroup reminded him of his time working as a dentist in a Sydney children’s hospital.

“They’re delightful kids, they really are,” he said.

“It’s astonishing how quickly they grow up.”

John Bruha also worked with children during his career.

Originally from California, Mr Bruha was an educator for school and university students, working in Australia and South East Asia.

“Educating people how to relate to young people, and how to look and see what’s inside,” he said.

“You see there’s people in there. You watch the personalities, they’re there and you can see them.”

Hilda Blewitt turns 88 next month; the playgroup reminded her of the fun times she had with her own children.

“It took me back 62 years — my son will be 67 this year, my daughter 65,” she said.

“I love watching the children and the songs. The songs are songs my children sung.”

ACT Playgroups also runs weekly intergenerational playgroups at RSL LifeCare in Lyneham and Page, and will be starting a new group at Kangara Waters in Belconnen next month.

Article originally published: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-13/intergenerational-playgroup-brings-smiles-to-young-and-old/7411770

One Response

  1. Hi

    I sent an email on the 6/2/20 but no one has responded.
    Can someone please contact me.
    Thank you

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