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St Anne’s Aged Care residents ‘relive their youth’ with weekly visits from local high school

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A uniform of a different colour fills St Anne’s Aged Care on Fridays, when local high school students visit the Hunter’s Hill home for a weekly check-in with their favourite residents.

St Joseph’s Hunters Hill is school for boys years 7-12, with a strong emphasis on family and community values that enriches their entire education experience. The students engage in a variety of community activities, from fundraising activities, tutoring their peers and even volunteering at the local aged care home.

“We’ve had an association with the Joey’s school for at least seven years, now,” says Tash Zhande, Residential Aged Care Manager of St Anne’s. “The boys genuinely enjoy visiting, and the impact that their presence has on the residents is outstanding.”

St Joseph’s Hunters Hill has a strong reputation for educating their students to become balanced, well-rounded individuals – offering a strong co-curricular program as well as a plethora of opportunities for students to engage in community events.

The volunteer program at St Anne’s has been one of the more popular activities the students commit to on a weekly basis.

“It’s really great coming to visit the residents, you can tell some of them actually really look forward to seeing us,” says one of senior students, who has just commenced his Year 12 studies.

From talking to the residents about their home lives to discussing their study programs, the students and residents clearly receive a mutual benefit from one another’s company. The students even say it relates back to their schoolwork when they leave the aged care home and return to the classroom.

“Sometimes we have to write stories, for English class,” explains one of the students. “Speaking with the residents really helps with that process – they have some really inspirational things to share.”

Aside from the educational impact, interaction with the St Anne’s residents addresses one of the major risk factors associated with ageing: social isolation.

Catholic Healthcare’s Residential Aged Care and Home and Community Services have a close focus on ensuring a sense of independence and dignity is maintained as Australians reach the later years of their life. Programs like the St Joseph’s students’ weekly visitation is just one of the initiatives contributing to the increased focus on reducing depression experienced by residents and clients.

“We look for other opportunities to help residents socially interact and feel empowered,” says Tash. “There’s a music program, recreational activities and exercises designed for the residents, just to name a few. There’s really something for everyone.”

Out of the all the programs featured at St Anne’s, he says that when the students visit, the impact is likely the most powerful – resonating with residents hours later.  

“You’ll overhear some of them talking about it with their fellow residents over dinner, sometimes,” he says. “It’s one of those social interactions that they can’t stop talking about. It’s been a really successful program and we’d encourage other providers to do the same if they have the opportunity.”