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Intergenerational care paves the way for a positive future

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FROM those young in years to those young-at-heart, the Villa Maria intergenerational playgroup certainly brings out the inner child in everyone at the weekly play session in this Brisbane residential aged care home.

Catholic Healthcare’s Fortitude Valley Aged Care service offers the residents a weekly hour-long opportunity to laugh, play games and sing  with children from as young as 18 months to seven years along with their parents, an initiative coordinated by Playgroup Queensland and Diversional Therapy Manager, Wendy Lawrence.

“You can genuinely see the residents light up when the children arrive; it brings out a joy that just doesn’t reduce with age,” says Wendy.

For the past two months, Playgroup Queensland has been facilitating the sessions every Tuesday morning, bringing together more than 20 residents and six regularly-participating families, who equally enjoy the interaction with the older residents.

Playgroup Queensland CEO, Stephen Alderman, says it’s particularly important to the organisation that parents also join the play session so they too, can reap the benefits each week.

“These playgroups really demonstrate the bonds that can form between the generations – despite the years between them. Age just isn’t a factor here.”

Wendy Lawrence strongly resonates with this sentiment – saying that many of the families enjoy the words of wisdom about parenting shared from the residents.

“Not only do the parents get the wisdom of the residents’ experience, but passing on their insights really gives the residents a sense of purpose,” she says.  

The playgroup certainly is a break from what one would assume is a fairly slow-paced life in aged care. On the contrary – as soon as the clock strikes 11am, a robust vibrancy shakes up the room and laughter amongst the playful chatter of children rings around the service. Even older residents, like 95-year-old Stan – despite sporting a bright cast from a recent fall,  laughs heartily as he volleys a balloon back and forth with seven year old participant, Matilda.   

“Seeing the smiles on their faces just warms your heart,” says Stan. “It reminds me of the memories I had when I was young.”

For those who live far from their families or frequently feel the longing for interaction with their grandchildren, the playgroup initiative truly offers a new dimension of diversional therapy, with the effects demonstrating positivity long after each weekly session.

“I find residents looking over their photos of the play sessions throughout the week, showing their guests the photo board of the children,” says Wendy. “It’s a therapeutic experience for them, and truly wondrous to see the impact.”