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Nurturing intergenerational friendships across our care communities

27th July 2020 | 5 mins
Communicating with zoom

We often hear about stepping outside ourselves, but rarely about stepping outside our generation - Chriss Jami.

Each day across our Opal care communities we are fortunate to learn from the wisdom of our residents, and our residents enjoy the surprise and delight that children of all ages bring to their lives. 

Enabling our residents to maintain relationships with people across the generations – just like they have done all their lives – is an important part of living in an Opal care community. Our homes have long nurtured relationships with local schools offering programs that provide learning opportunities for everyone involved.

Through our partnerships with pre-schools, primary and high schools in our communities, residents and students have the opportunity to connect, engage and spend time interacting through mutual interests. This might be through writing letters to one another, exchanging homemade gifts and artwork, or spending time together in different activities such as reading or doing a puzzle. More recently, this engagement has been broadened through the use of technology, particularly while COVID-19 meant visitors were fewer.

Our residents adore the letters, paintings and crafts they have received from students of all ages and any time spent together is priceless. They find great enjoyment in writing letters in return and displaying the children’s drawings in their rooms.

At Opal By The Bay, our residents recently received a surprise gift of artwork made by children of frontline workers at the Austin Hospital in Victoria. Our team created an art wall and residents delight in walking by and admiring the children’s beautiful art.

Intergenerational programs offer a mutually beneficial learning experience for young and old, and by doing activities together, we have seen all generations experience a higher sense of purpose and increased self-worth. 

Children from Abbotsford Long Day Care Centre have been visiting Opal Windward Manor for many years. Before COVID-19, the children and their teachers would visit our residents once a month, and every now and then would host our residents at the Day Care Centre. Through these interactions they were building kind and respectful relationships with one another. Abbotsford Educational Leader, Alicia, says “We have seen the joy on the faces of both the residents and children, they show such care and respect for each other.”

We have focused on maintaining these important relationships throughout COVID-19 by using technology to connect residents with children without being in the same room. Zoom has been put to great use to keep these activities running, giving our residents social opportunities to look forward to that are meaningful and fun for all. This article in The Conversation beautifully describes the positive effects that can be seen by this engagement - "Older adults who used video chat technology such as Skype had significantly lower risks of depression than those who did not video chat. Video calls can help us all cope with this pandemic, and enhance the well-being of an older population moving forward."

At Windward Manor residents and children from the Abbotsford Day Care Centre like to wave to one another and share a song or two via Zoom. An Opal team member says, “It’s been wonderful to spend time with the children and see them in their own environment, especially during this difficult time, it’s an experience our residents cherish and they are incredibly grateful. I don’t think we could ever put into words how meaningful and beneficial it is for residents to have these interactions via Zoom.” 

Research says that regularly engaging with children can be energizing for our elders and can have positive effects on memory. For our residents who don’t often receive visitors, having children come to visit can help to reduce feelings of loneliness or social isolation. For children without grandparents, these relationships also fill an important place in their lives.

Tic Tac Toe

Among the many benefits we have seen, intergenerational activities enable our residents to participate in meaningful activities that focus on their strengths and encourage feelings of independence, as well as encouraging children to learn from and connect with older generations. Our residents are learning to use technology with children that they may never have otherwise experienced, and children are learning from the stories and wisdom of their elders.

Left to their own devices participating in an activity together or via video calls, these friendships form easily and develop naturally over time. Our residents look forward with great anticipation to their visits, and always have something to talk about long after the children have gone home.


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