Stuart, Jax, left, and Michaela, right, in a scene from the TV series Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds. Supplied by ABC-TV.
Stuart, Jax, left, and Michaela, right, in a scene from the TV series Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds. Supplied by ABC-TV.

Stretching the friendship

THE enormous success of the ABC television series Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds has led to researchers looking at how this intergenerational experiment can be offered in the broader community.

There have been similar projects conducted through other aged care facilities, but few are known to exist in the non-residential seniors' community.

With support funding from the University of NSW's Ageing Futures Institute, project co-leader, Dr Stephanie Ward from the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) senior research scientist Dr Ruth Peters, will investigate how to bring older adults and young children together for learning activities.

"We were all initially inspired by the television program, which I was on," Dr Ward said.

The geriatrician found the key outcomes from the show were purpose and connection.

"I could see the way that the experiment gave the adults a sense of purpose and how important that was, for some of them, in changing their health and their attitudes,'' Dr Ward said.

"The sense of connection is incredibly important for all of us at any age but can become more difficult to maintain at an older age."

It underpinned a great deal of the transformation the TV show researchers and viewers saw.

"It reminded us all how incredibly resilient and resourceful older and younger people are and what magic can happen when you bring the two generations together," Dr Ward said.

"Coming out of that, we want to look at what is sustainable and feasible in the longer term for intergenerational projects and what will be useful for community-based older populations.''

The multidisciplinary Intergenerational Integration Initiative project will look at the best way to deliver a similar project to what was conducted in the aged care home but within the broader senior community.

Dr Peters said: "We want to bring together older adults living in the community with children living in that community.''

Dr Ward added: "We saw in the television show how beneficial it could be but we need more evidence to find the best way to do this.''

While the TV show was based on four-days-a-week interaction, the researchers are considering a shorter format.

The decision will hinge on the feedback they receive from an Australia-wide survey, which they want anyone aged 18 and over to complete.

"We want to know what people think about intergenerational interaction, what's best, what's the facilitators, the barriers and how can we deliver this type of interaction going forward," Dr Peters said.

The survey is available online at coghealth.net.au/the-intergeneration-integration-project.

By the end of this year, the project team hopes to have resources available on how groups can conduct face-to-face intergenerational interactions on an ongoing basis.

"One of the key things we want to get out of the whole project is some recommendations about how you might take this into your own community," Dr Peters said.

Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds screened for five weeks as part of a seven-week experiment to see how the company of youngsters could improve seniors' lives.

While the TV show was based on four days a week interaction, the researchers are considering a shorter format. The decision will hinge on the feedback they receive from an Australia-wide survey which they want anyone aged 18 years and over to complete.

 

"We want to know what people think about intergenerational interaction, what's best, what's the facilitators, the barriers and how can we deliver this type of interaction going forward," Dr Peters added.

 

The survey is available online at coghealth.net.au/the-intergeneration-integration-project.

By the end of his year the project team hope to have resources available on how groups can conduct face-to-face intergenerational interactions on an on-going basis.

 

"One of the key things we want to get out of the whole project is some recommendations about how you might take this into your own community," Dr Peters said.


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