Recently you may have seen a new program on Australian Television, Old people’s home for 4 year olds. This program follows a social experiment which aims to solidify the fact that engagement between young children and the elderly can improve health and quality of life for the older generation of Australians. Research has shown that loneliness and depression are significant issues for residents in aged care facilities, with 40% of residents receiving no visitors, some residents spending up to 20 hours per day in their room and 50% of residents reporting symptoms of depression.
Research shows that children need more caring adults in their lives to develop properly. The elderly in aged care get many magical benefits that help even dementia patients feel better about themselves. This human interaction works wonders for both groups of vulnerable people.
The benefits for children include:
- Connections that build their self-esteem
- Learning new activities and skills
- Benefitting from people with a wide knowledge and experience base
- Building relationships with new people and developing their social skills
- Learning to play in a gentler, calmer way
- Learning to care for others
- Learning to value our elderly generation
The benefits for the elderly residents include:
- Elders feel a sense of joy and freedom with children.
- They develop a new lease on life and have more energy.
- Elderly who have these relationships are less depressed, maintain better health and are overall more satisfied with their life.
- They play the role of teacher and feel they are needed while children also teach them new things.
- Their relationship with a special child can help them leave a powerful legacy.
- Keeps elders from being isolated.
So what does this have to do with Leap Start? Well, as part of our commitment to building important community connections Leap Start has been regularly visiting Frank Prendergast House aged care for over a year now. This relationship began with one of our very dedicated Pre-Kindy Educators, Carron Clifton, who really saw the potential benefits for both our children and also for the older members of our community in making this link. After the success of the fortnightly visits with our Pre-Kindy children we have now extended the program to all of our rooms, from our babies through to our Kindy children.
We are very excited to see the results of the Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds experiment, although, we already know that it will work. You only have to witness the beautiful interactions between our children and the residents to know that what we are doing is truly making a positive and long-lasting impact in the lives of our children and in the lives of the elderly residents.