Our Aurora children have been regular visitors to the Peppertree Hill Retirement Village over 2019 and have enjoyed building connections with the elderly during this time. While our visits have been postponed because of the Coronavirus pandemic, we continue to maintain our children’s connection with Peppertree Hill and support them to build strong intergenerational relationships. 

Intergenerational relationships are important, particularly in the case of young children interacting with the elderly, as they positively impact the cognitive and physical advancement of both parties involved. 

We reflect on why intergenerational relationships should be built from a young age, what benefits they bring to society, and what theorists and their studies find about such connections present in a community. These practices are being put into place by Aurora for the betterment of our children and in turn, our community as a whole. 

Teaching children to care for the elderly in the early years is important because, like all relationships, this one is ‘an ongoing exchange’. What is shared between different generations is extremely valuable; both older adults and children have a lot to give and gain from each other.  These relationships ought to be cherished, particularly during the current pandemic we are  facing. 

The Ongoing Benefits

As we critically reflect and innovate ourselves we take time to remind ourselves of the background, the evidence and the immense benefits there are to draw upon.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, through relationships with the elderly, children build on their responsibility, patience and empathy. Their social skills also develop and the learn to reflect on and connect with different perspectives. 

Correspondingly, as they deepen their relationships with children, members of the older generation can feel a sense of belonging and usefulness. According to an evaluative study done by doctors for the BMC Geriatrics Journal; the elderly’s psychological and physical well being develop as they connect to young children. 

As a result of these relationships, older adults are more willing to develop their physical and technological skills that will help them better connect with children. 

Aurora follows the TOY model!

In 2012, a movement emphasizing this very cause began, aiming to gain global recognition for intergenerational learning called TOY; ‘Together Old & Young’. The TOY Programme strived for interaction between older adults and young children to further enhance their learning. The program was implemented  by schools in Italy, Slovenia, Ireland, Poland and Portugal. 

The project was focused on getting children between the ages zero to eight years to interact with older and most likely retired adults who could benefit from cognitive and social development. 

The TOY project found that intergenerational relationships improved overall wellbeing for the elderly and thus lowered their feelings of desolation which made them encourage the rest of the world to participate. 

However, Aurora recognised the immense value that the program could bring to the lives of Australian children and our community. 

Connect, Care, Create: Aurora’s TOY Initiatives:

Aurora strongly believes in the power of intergenerational care and communication. Aurora’s educators have been talking to our children about the importance of making the elderly feel happy and recognized during this period of isolation. Both the children and the residents of Peppertree Hill are experiencing the effects of the physical distancing measures and being isolated.

In their mission to comfort the elderly during this time of physical distancing, the children at Aurora created cards for the residents at Peppertree Hill Retirement Village to show them their support during this difficult time. The kindergarten classes at Aurora chose to put rainbows on their cards as a sign of hope.

Aurora’s pedagogs take  inspirations from Regio Emilia, Montessori, Kathy Walker and Peter Gray’s approaches to create their learning plan. This means our educators are focusing on each child by keeping account of their individual development through the duration of their time, highlighting what is working in the learning process and reflecting on what is not. Aurora educators have personally evidenced the benefits of intergenerational activities. 

TOY in Aurora has encouraged acts of kindness by the Kindergarten children. Teachers are encouraged to extend the children’s knowledge by exploring the creation of rainbows to STEM projects maintaining learning through fun and artistic experiences. 

Isolation Affecting the Elderly 

Many of the elderly have to follow strict isolation recommendations because of the coronavirus pandemic. This can be deeply consequential for the elderly living by themselves in their homes or in a senior care facility.

According to an analysis by a group of doctors and professors published in January this year, restricted social interaction can often result in loneliness, cognitive decline, depression and anxiety. These various mental health issues that stem from isolation can be considered a serious health concern as they would need a fair deal of therapy and treatment to counter the negative impacts of social distancing. 

For many retired folk, social interaction is only gained from outside their household. Now, living amidst a pandemic, that little social contact is eliminated for an uncertain amount of time. 

However, many advancements have been made to encourage easier digital communication with the elderly who may not be generally well versed in technology. This allows them to contact their loved ones who are concerned about their wellbeing. It also permits them to seek aid from health professionals if needed. 

Building Intergenerational Relationships Whilst Social Distancing

Aurora is continuing to maintain and grow intergenerational relationships using the children’s artistic and compassionate skills along with digital tools to convey heartfelt messages. 

For instance, the children sent letters and cards to the elderly at Peppertree Hill Retirement Village. 

We also make sure conversations are made between the children and the elderly through regular video calls. 

Using technology, Aurora shares the children singing songs and reading stories to lift the elderly’s spirits and get them involved.  

There are several free to use apps that help make digital connections easier. For instance, Caribu has a collection of stories that different users can read together. Marco Polo is a safe, ad free app that allows users to leave video messages for each other. 

Even amidst times of stress and uncertainty, we need to remember to celebrate humans’ resilience and find new ways to come together and support each other as a community.