It’s the real-life application of a concept that stole the nation’s heart.Key points:An intergenerational learning centre has been built next door to an aged care facilityElderly residents will have regular interactions with pre-school aged childrenExperts say the model could provide major societal benefits for the young and oldNow, the theory behind hit television series Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Olds is playing out at a new care facility in western New South Wales.The Maranatha Gunyah Intergenerational Learning Centre in Wellington has started welcoming residents from the neighbouring Maranatha House aged care facility.It is the first of its kind in Australia, and will offer regular interaction between residents and pre-school children in purpose-built rooms. Resident Pauline Corcoran, 82, has no grandchildren of her own but she doesn’t mind her new noisy neighbours.”You know you’re alive,” she laughed.”There’s been a lot of changes over the 16 years [I’ve lived here], but it’s been a happy time, and this makes it happier seeing all the little children.”‘You know you’re alive’: Maranatha House resident Pauline Corcoran enjoys “happy time” with the children.(ABC Central West: Dale Drinkwater)’Be part of everything again’Ms Corcoran watched the centre’s construction from her room, and said she looked forward to doing something ‘different’.”We would just probably be sitting in rooms and reading or watching TV or doing activities,” she said.”I don’t know, you sort of lose a bit of interest in the same old things all the time. Chairman of the project committee, Terry Frost, said he pitched the idea to the aged care centre’s board almost 10 years ago after an experience with his own father.”My dad was a resident in the dementia wing and whenever we brought our grandchildren to see him, his eyes just lit up,” Mr Frost said.”The residents around him also came around and they enjoyed children and then it dawned on me that there was something missing from aged care — and it was children.”Maranatha House chairman Terry Frost champions intergenerational care.(ABC Central West: Dale Drinkwater)A results-driven modelThe centre is using research from Griffith University’s Intergenerational Care Project, which promotes interactions through games, reading, and singing to combat memory loss and loneliness.Professor Anneke Fitzgerald is a lead investigator in the project and is impressed with the model of Maranatha house.”A shared campus model is absolutely the most preferred model to have,” Professor Fitzgerald said.”Mixing with younger children through an activity will help people with their reminiscence to transfer to next generation, but reminds them of their own worth, a sense of self-actualisation, a worth to the world, and a sense of purpose.”The older folk would talk to one another more, they are much less cranky, much more engaging with one another, and there is less buzzer ringing during the night.”And the children learn, too.”One of the main things we found is that when children mix with older people, they are much less likely to be delinquent in teenage years. The societal impact is massive,” she said.”Their linguistic skills improve, their reflection skills, they are more curious about history, and a higher level of interest in the world around them.”A Maranatha House resident joins children in play time.(ABC Central West: Dale Drinkwater)A more positive futureIt’s been a tough two years for the image of the aged care sector, but for all stakeholders involved in this $3 million project, it represents a better way forward for the elderly.”It means a lot,” Ms Corcoran said.”It keeps us going. Keeps us interested in what goes on in the place, and it’s just wonderful to have the children around to interact with.”We used to watch that television show that used to be on, it was lovely that show, and that’s what I was hoping this’d be like too, and I think it will be.”
The idea behind a hit television series that brought old people and pre-school children together is playing out at a groundbreaking new aged care facility — and residents are rapt.