Staying connected is more important now than ever, and one Moreton Bay Region kindergarten is continuing to bring much-needed smiles to aged care residents with its intergenerational program.
As Director Narelle Dawson explains, Bribie Island Community Kindergarten first introduced the program back in 2016 as a way to help celebrate culture and diversity.
Every Friday, the children visit the local Churches of Christ Aged Care Service to share stories, conversations, songs, collaborative artwork, and greetings.
Since COVID-19, and the widespread disruptions that came with it, Narelle says the program had to be adapted.
“It has been important for us to do all that we can to ensure we stay connected with the elders, as we understand how they will miss our Friday visits,” she says, adding that many of the children are also missing their own grandparents due to social distancing.
The kindergarten initially used FaceTime to keep in touch, but recently gained permission to commence its weekly visits from behind the safety of the glass doors.
“In the first week we just sang some songs, waved, and delivered specially made cards for everyone,” Narelle says.
“Last week, we took musical instruments and played, sang, danced, and also became the audience as some of the elders performed for us,” she says.
The program itself is based on a wealth of research, with benefits including developing empathy, understanding lifecycle changes, and even debunking stereotypical perspectives associated with age.
But for all those involved, it goes far beyond that.
“At the heart of our program is the important understanding that society is based on giving and receiving, and that both children and older generations benefit from a sense of purpose,” Narelle says.
“Having the elderly and children play and care for each other is a union of future and past generations, and brings value to human interactions. It’s positive all round,” she says.
For some of the residents, the scheduled visits may be the only outside social interaction they receive. Needless to say, it’s one of the highlights of their week.
“The elders’ reaction has been priceless,” Narelle says. “Their joyful faces tell the story of how much the children’s visits mean to them.”
“We have been privileged to view wedding photos, images of the elderly when they were young and as a child, cars they use to drive, poems they wrote, and games they use to play.”
The kindergarten also visits the nearby Bribie Cove Aged Care facility once a term.
Such collaborative partnerships have seen the Bribie Island Community Kindergarten earn an ‘Excellent’ rating for the third time by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority – the highest rating a service can achieve under the National Quality Framework.
Other examples of exceptional practice include the Joondoburri Walk Project, where the kindergarten has established a community nature walk and weekly bush program with local Elder, Uncle Ron.
“We are heavily embedded within the community and likewise,” Narelle says. “Our Intergenerational Program is just one aspect of this,” she says.
As Queensland moves into the recovery phase of COVID-19, Bribie Island Community Kindergarten remains as busy as ever.
“We are back to about a 95 percent attendance rate,” Narelle says. “The children are very happy to be back with their peers and teachers.”