"I'm a writer living in the Perth Hills with my relentlessly fun seeking children.
Published February 7th 2017
Not all play groups are created equal
Intergenerational playgroup: it's not a phrase that trips lightly off the tongue, but it is a concept that gives such enormous value to communities it deserves to be talked about. Simply put, it's an idea that encourages playgroups to meet in elderly residential care homes. It has all the usual ingredients you would find in any other mums and bubs club; a circle of activity in the middle of the room; babies and toddlers playing; toys; songs; nursery rhymes; and the obligatory morning tea, but with something very special. It's different because the edge of the room is lined with chairs and wheelchairs, all occupied by seniors.
Best of freinds
It's a happy atmosphere. Even those who may have very limited mobility or severe memory problems are enjoying the simple act of watching children play. It seems age is no barrier to blowing bubbles, hitting a balloon about, or singing along to the Hokey Pokey. I imagine that most people watching were involved with families of their own at some stage of their life, so it feels very natural. Small children seem to be the most adept at seeing people for who they are without prejudice, it works perfectly.
Fluffy chickens loved by young and old
Before gated lifestyle villages and nursing homes became the norm in our society, elderly people were an integral part of our communities and they still have a wealth of experience and stories to share. I'm happy to say that my children have made several friends through the intergenerational playgroup that are valued just as much as their mates nearer their own age.
It's an initiative that organizations like Playgroup WA are keen to support. So, if your regular playgroup is bursting at the seams and you're considering branching out into a smaller group, or you are a new mums and bubs group without a base, please consider a local residential care home near to you. Many places have on site activities co-coordinators who are happy to be involved in helping set up a group.
Having a giggle over the Guinea pigs
The commitment is small for you, an hour out of your week or fortnight. It's not much, but it could mean a lot to a long term resident. The social isolation of getting older can be lonely, but it doesn't have to be that way. We have enjoyed many social events with our group of seniors and made special friendships that were unexpected and valuable.
Out and about
If setting up a group isn't practical, why not ask if your children can help make cards or pictures to send to residents that don't receive a lot of mail, or ask about other practical ways to connect with older people in the community you live in. Whilst getting older is something we cant change, our attitudes to it can and that's something that can enrich all our lives.
Thanks Bryony, I think anything that breaks down barriers between the young and old is worth doing. I was raised by my Gran and I am all the better for her influence in my own life.Age really shouldn't be a barrier.