'Really amazing': Younger generation transforming aged care
A WEEKLY playgroup at Bateau Bay is changing the lives of both children and the residents of the BUPA Aged Care centre where it is held.
"All the residents get a lot out of it, but particularly the dementia patients," said playgroup organiser Angela Johns.
"It's really amazing to see - it touches something in them.
"As soon as they see the children, or especially a baby, their faces soften and light up.
"And the workers report it has a real flow-on to their mood and recognition."
Angela's own children, Mia and Max, have both attended the Montessori-styled playgroup, Bateau Bay Nurture the Child, which started 18 months ago, initially paying visits to the aged centre, before this year calling it home.
"I felt like there was more we could do," Angela explained.
"If you don't go frequently enough, you don't form those relationships that we have now, where we all know each other and the regulars are sitting waiting for us to arrive."
Group time involves about 20 residents sitting out enjoying the sun while children from 8-10 families paint and draw.
This is followed by about 20 minutes of young and old alike singing familiar songs and saying nursery rhymes with movements, finishing with a goodbye song.
Angela said the residents always had pictures to take back to their rooms, while the kids also loved sitting on the residents' laps to have stories read to them.
"The residents think it's incredible all the things the kids do, and they even like it when the kids play up, it makes them laugh - for them it's reality and it reminds them of their kids, when they had moments too.
"I think actually both groups enjoy the attention and having a captive audience," she laughed.
Central Coast Seniors spoke to Angela after the group's first visit to the dementia ward in late July, and she said it was likely to become a regular part of their week.
"We had a bubble machine, and the residents loved that and the dolls and toys the kids brought in - it's the simple things that are often the most effective."
And, she said, the kids essentially "don't see the dementia, or recognise anything unusual", making it a very relaxed and natural relationship for both parties.
Angela paid tribute to former BUPA Bateau Bay general manager Robyn Blackwell who had made the program possible, including getting staff their Working with Children checks.
"She's really passionate about intergenerational care, and she was so supportive," she said.
Angela is starting her own Montessori training, and hopes the success at Bateau Bay could see the program spread.
"I feel really blessed to be in this space to do this, because it's not hard, but it's so rewarding for everyone and the residents are so grateful," she said.
The group, which currently has about Facebook 95 members, meets on Wednesdays from 9.30am. For details, find them on Facebook or at Playgroup NSW.