Older people bring wisdom and joy to activities with small children

STUDIES the world over have shown the benefits of intergenerational relationships between older people and children.

In a changing society it is important for both youth and older people to connect with different generations.

A fine example of this recently was a visit by a group of older people from the Harold Hawthorne Community Centre in Carlisle to children attending the Billabong Community Early Learning Centre in East Victoria Park.

The ongoing program with Harold Hawthorne has been running since January 2017.

The Billabong Centre has children enrolled as joeys (birth to two years), possums (two to three years) and wombats (three to five years).

The visitors took part in a fun-filled afternoon of various activities with the older children, including helping them create objects with play dough, painting, threading with wooden beads, puzzles and using play equipment.

The children helped make vegemite scrolls and cupcakes for the visitors who enjoyed them at afternoon tea.

Music and movement by the children and older people proved a highlight.

“The visitors live in their own homes at Harold Hawthorne and look forward to their visit to Billabong. Usually different groups come about once a month,” said Shani Seneviratne, Billabong’s nominated supervisor-centre manager.

Watching the older people interact with the children at various activities and the joy on the faces of both groups was inspiring.

According to a US study, developing connections with a younger generation can help older adults feel a greater sense of fulfilment.

In fact, linking older adults with youth can provide advantages for both groups.

For example, such relationships provide an opportunity for both to learn new skills, give the child and adult a sense of purpose, help alleviate fears children may have about the elderly, help children to understand and later accept their own ageing and invigorate and energise older adults.

This interaction can help reduce the likelihood of depression in the elderly, reduce the isolation of older adults, fill a void for children who do not have grandparents available to them, help keep family stories and history alive and help in cognitive stimulation and sometimes introduce technology into the life of an older person, as well as broaden social circles.

The study also found that swapping stories is a great activity and can help build a connection.

Many older adults have skills or talents that would be interesting for children.

According to Washington based Healthy Ageing Partnership, the excitement of seeing the world  through younger eyes can help get older adults up and doing, reducing depression, relieving boredom and improving health.

Young children benefit from and enjoy having someone who listens and gives them their undivided attention.

Often, parents don’t have enough time to spend with their children and that is where an older person can be a mentor and friend.