AGELESS PLAY: The positive response from the seniors community to the uplifting ABC series about an intergenerational playgroup has been exceptional.
AGELESS PLAY: The positive response from the seniors community to the uplifting ABC series about an intergenerational playgroup has been exceptional. romrodinka

Playgroup grand-friends captures public interest

AGELESS activities isn't a new concept, but with the profile of ageism increasing and the airing of the ABC's show Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds, its found its place in the sun.

The response to the program has been massive says Playgroup Australia's CEO Fiona May. "The feedback we are getting from both on our social media channels and through our website is great excitement and enthusiasm for the concept," Ms May said.

The uplifting social experiment bought together a kindergarten group and retirement village residents to discover what impacts the relationships between the generations could achieve.

Researchers attached to the program studied mood, memory and health of the older participants as they engaged in active participation in a range of indoor and outdoor activities.

Since the show went to air Playgroup Australia has received interest from 2000 families wanting to attend intergenerational playgroups along with expressions of interest from Aged Care providers, retirement villages and education providers.

Ms May sees ageless play as a valuable way to break down some of the barriers caused by ageism. "We know to change our culture, to change the way we think about a group, takes a long time and the most effective way to start is with our young people, and intergenerational playgroups are a lovely way of doing that to combat ageism," she said.

There are already about 40 intergenerational playgroups across Australia. Those programs managers are reporting back to Playgroup Australia that their older members are really appreciating the interaction they are having with the younger generation.

"They have seen residents who perhaps for the rest of the week are largely non-verbal, really come alive at playgroup, joining in the songs, speaking with the small children and interacting in ways they not are doing during the rest of the week," Ms May said.

"Families are seeing this as a great opportunity for their children to interact with a generation that they might otherwise not see very much of.

"Families also talk about how it builds empathy with their children and how they really enjoy developing relationships with people of a different generation. Beyond that, the parents are also talking about how much they value having relationships with older people, to hear the stories about how it was in their day."

Playgroups Australia supports people and organisations wanting to set up an Ageless Play experience. It's a not-for-profit organisation which acts as the national representative body for playgroup organisations.

It's aim is to increase wellbeing and reduce social isolation of older Australians by creating new connections to the community drawn from a different generation.

Ms May says she's interested in seeing how she can connect seniors, who receive home care support and are often very socially isolated, participate in an Ageless Play program. "A real challenge is how do we reach out to these seniors," she said.

"That might take some novel partnerships being built up around not just playgroup organisations and seniors centres, but also home care and transport providers, and others in the Aged Care sector that might make it possible."


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