General Manager of BUPA Seaforth, Emma Kerr, initiated the relationship after reading of the mutual benefits for young and old in such relationships.
“My daughter Jess is at Goodstart Mona Vale and it’s a wonderful centre, and I’d been thinking for some time that a relationship between the centre’s children and our residents would be really positive,” Ms Kerr said.
An article published by the Council on the Ageing Queensland shows many benefits for children including being exposed to tradition and wisdom, and developing respect and empathy.
For the elderly the article outlines benefits such expanded social networks, being physically and mentally active, and feeling purpose and belonging from their role in activities with children.
The first of what’s planned to be regular occasions for the preschool children and elderly residents took place recently in the Mona Vale centre’s familiar surrounds, with the children not hesitating to approach and interact with their new friends.
“It was quite amazing,” said Mona Vale centre director, Amy Meatchem. “The children were so comfortable approaching our visitors, even though they were complete strangers.
“One of the boys at our centre, who is always so busy and active, instantly went over to one of the ladies with a book and held her hand the whole time. For such an active boy it was amazing to see him so still and focussed.
“The children and residents seemed to naturally form relationships as soon as they met. It was very child-led.”
The calming influence and personal engagement offered by the session is well aligned with Mona Vale’s vision as a centre, where children and staff practice mindfulness and make deliberate efforts to be ‘in the moment’.
“We’re very mindful of not rushing through the day at our centre,” Ms Meatchem said.
“We call it ‘being present in the moment’ and we try to engage with what’s around us at any one time.
“Sessions like this illustrate the benefits of being present beautifully. The older generations have so much more time for children and they engage with what’s happening right now, which the children really respond to.
“The children benefit in other ways too, learning about different ways of behaving and communicating to people who are much older than them.
“We’re really looking forward to continuing the relationship with the residents, the connections between old and young have been beautiful to watch.”