Bringing our youngest and oldest citizens together

An Intergenerational Care program is a planned intentional interaction between different age groups (infant to elderly), in a variety of settings and at a level that provides close communication, shares feelings and ideas and cooperative activity in a meaningful way (Peackock and Talley, Intergenerational Contact:  A Way to Counteract Ageism 1984).

One of our recent Action Research projects focused on the theme ‘Creating Learning Communities’. Robyn Pointing, along with one of her colleagues formerly of Churches of Christ Care ELC on the Gold Coast, were two of our enthusiastic participants. Robyn’s interest in Intergenerational Care was piqued by an article that she read which was related to the Kids Interacting with the Elderly (KITE) project and her former service was active in the areas of early childhood, child protection, community housing, community care and aged care.

Action Research involves thinking and doing to create change and Robyn saw participation in the project as a structured way to support information gathering and implementation of an Intergenerational Care project.

The aims of the project were to:

  • Use the Action Research project as a platform to implement sustained interactions across the organisation’s ECEC and aged care facility;
  • Envisage the potential of Intergenerational Care within the context of an intergenerational care service; and
  • Understand the value of relationships between children and the elderly.

The key findings of the project were:

  • There is greater disconnection or distance between generations within cities due to work and study commitments.
  • Family contact through platforms such as Facebook, Skype, email etc. are becoming more common and direct contact less common.
  • Within rural communities there is a more natural connection between the community which includes the elderly and children.
  • Parallels exist between early childhood and aged care facilities, for example, behavior management strategies and care requirements.
  • Elements of support are required to ensure sustained opportunities for interaction occur, for example, volunteer support and transport.

The most significant learnings of the project were:

  • There is a strong inherent value in the nature of play with a strong emphasis on joyfulness.
  • The children’s awareness and learning about the ageing process and their concept and understanding of the word ‘old’.
  • The value of a life span and the experiences that occur within it.

Within today’s society where interactions are more reliant on technology, being able to provide the opportunity for sustained and meaningful relationships to develop between children and the elderly is essential. These relationships build care and understanding but also highlight how important social interaction, joy and learning are regardless of age. To be amongst a mixed aged group sharing, learning and caring, nurtures an awareness of others as well as enhancing one’s own sense of self-esteem. Children are empowered as they help the elderly and the elderly feel valued and needed as they share their life experiences. This Action Research project for this service ignited a community learning from each other, sharing the value of connecting and belonging. The potential of Intergenerational Care is significant, not only as it creates positive outcomes for all but also for the community of learners that is generated from this connection.

Our next Action Research project – ‘Taking a Stand – Connecting Social Justice, Inclusion, Equity and Advocacy within Practice’ commences in June and registrations close 31 March 2017.  You can find out more information here.

Where will action research take you..?

This article is a condensed version of Creating Learning Communities, An Action Research Project: Intergenerational Care by Robyn Pointing which was originally published in the Spring 2015 edition of In the Loop, published by the Health and Community Services Workforce Council.