We are often told that age sets us apart. Indeed, our communities are often divided along age lines – the young go to their schools, older people are in their homes or in retirement communities, and overlap does not happen naturally. However, there is much to be gained from the young and the seniors interacting, connecting, and learning from each other. Last month, Sunnybank Hills Aged Care Residence had a wonderful day full of quality connections thanks to McGregor State High School students. The day demonstrated many of the benefits of ageless friendships and shared wisdom.
A connected community
The visit was organised by Kate Middleton from the Sunnybank Hills Lifestyle Team and Sarah Enese, who is a Trainer and Assessor with Strategix Training. Sarah works with the students of McGregor High to assist them in connecting with the community and preparing them for life after graduation. The Sunnybank Hills Lifestyle Team and residents eagerly welcomed teachers and students from grades 11 and 12 and were more than happy to provide an opportunity for students to interact and enjoy time with older people.
The students’ day began with a tour of the Residence led by Kate and sharing morning tea with residents. This was well-received on both sides as it was a chance for residents to share their life stories and for students to practice active listening and to also talk about their own life experiences.
The student group also explored the gardens, visited Residents in their rooms, and attentively listened to advice from Residents to take them forward in their lives. They also complimented the Residence’s friendly atmosphere and multiculturalism, which was fantastic to hear. The students were a credit to their parents and teachers. They were respectful, polite, and the empathy they showed to residents was beautiful to watch.
Sunnybank Hills residents are already looking forward to seeing the students again! The teachers mentioned the possibility of future visits from the McGregor State High School choir, orchestra, and Special Education Class, which would be warmly welcomed by everyone at Sunnybank Hills.
The benefits of intergenerational activities
This visit enjoyed by Sunnybank Hills residents and McGregor students is a wonderful example of the mutual rewards of intergenerational interaction. They are long-lasting and can be life-changing.
For young people, these benefits include:
- Development of life skills, communication skills, self-esteem, and confidence
- Undivided time and attention from an older adult that a tired, busy parent may not be able to provide
- Feeling needed and the opportunity to help seniors learn new skills, such as using technology
- Learning new interests, skills, and life experiences from an older adult helps to broaden knowledge and understanding of the world
Peter with two amazing young men. It was impressive to watch them together. Peter has a speech impediment which they handled with tact and respect. They also helped Peter write down what he wanted to say.
For older adults, benefits include:
- Decreased risk of depression, better physical health, higher degrees of life satisfaction, and more optimism for the future
- The opportunity to leave a powerful legacy, make a difference, and support the course of a young person’s life
- Gaining a refreshed worldview, especially for those facing health challenges and other losses
- Learning and teaching new skills to a receptive audience
With so much research showing the long list of benefits from intergenerational relationships, events such as the one that took place at Sunnybank Hills are becoming more common. There are even TV documentaries showing how these connections transform lives. We look forward to seeing the future visits that McGregor High students make to Sunnybank Hills.