Intergenerational care helps older people form special bonds with children, improve their moods and reconnect with the past, according to the evaluation of a two-year project.
Griffith University’s Intergenerational Care Project evaluated the effectiveness of two intergenerational models, one involving a shared campus and the other a visiting approach (read more here).
The project, which assessed the models over 16 weeks, involved approximately 40 children aged 3 to 5 and 40 aged care recipients at three day respite centres and one aged care facility in Queensland and New South Wales.
The researchers presented the results of the evaluation in an online forum on Wednesday evening.
Intergenerational Care Project chief investigator and program evaluation lead Professor Anneke Fitzgerald said aged care recipients formed special bonds with the children over the course of the study.
“What we saw overtime is that people grew much more comfortable with each other, that there is quite a bit more bonding especially through physical contact,” Professor Fitzgerald told the public forum.
The researchers also measured the mood of the older participants.
“We found that over the 16 weeks, the mood score at the beginning of the session increased, which we translated as people started to look forward to coming,” Professor Fitzgerald said.
She said that the younger and older participants formed better personal connections with each other when they participated in low energy activities, such as reading compared to high energy activities like dancing.
Through the interactions with children, the older participants were also able to reaffirm their feelings of importance, reflect on their achievements, re-learn things they already knew or had forgotten and have a positive sense of wellbeing, Professor Fitzgerald said.
Project manager Dr Xanthe Golenko said there was reciprocity in learning among the senior and children.
“Both the older people and the younger people could learn together and exchange knowledge and information,” Dr Golenko told Australian Ageing Agenda following the forum.
“They really enjoyed those bonding moments with the children,” Dr Golenko said.
Both aged care and childcare staff involved in the study said participating added value and meaning to their work, said Dr Katrina Radford, the project’s chief investigator and workforce lead.
Dr Radford told the forum that workload and responsibilities of staff involved in the project increased, particularly for organising activities and equipment.
“The nuances that came out were around the concept of setting up and packing down. So, who is responsible… is it a shared responsibility or is there a consultant that can come in and it do it… because it does add that extra workload,” she said.
Dr Golenko said aged care and childcare staff needed training to improve their ability to work together.
“While there’s similarities and common elements in terms of the work and the tasks that they’re doing, there’s a difference in their professional way of doing things, they talk a whole different language,” she said.
“There really needs to be interprofessional learning and training to help them to work together and also really establish their roles and responsibilities in terms of developing and facilitating the program,” Dr Golenko said.
The program exposed the care workers to the eachother’s industries, which created a possibility of attracting employees to both sectors, the forum heard.
Elsewhere, the forum heard about the cost of facilitating a two-hour weekly program over 36 weeks with upto 12 children and 12 aged care recipients.
Key costs include materials, fees for the facility where the program is run, staff wages and transport for care recipients, said Nicole Moretto, Intergenerational Care Project economic evaluation researcher.
The visitation model cost from $10 to $40 per participant per session while the shared model cost $8 per participant per session, Ms Moretto said.
The study also found that the aged care recipients were willing to contribute $6.90 per session, carers would pay $6.30 for their loved one to join and parents were willing to contribute $4.40 for their child to participate, Ms Moretto said.
Dr Golenko said the shared model was the most cost-effective. For the visiting approaches, they found it was more cost-effective for aged care recipients to travel to the childcare centre than for the children to travel because staff-to-child ratios are higher for childcare excursions.
All sites in the project expressed interest to continue an adapted version of the program in eight-week blocks rather than 16 weeks, Dr Golenko said.
Find out more about the Intergenerational Care Project here.
Elsewhere, the ABC is showcasing a seven-week intergenerational experiment among pre-school children and residents from a nearby retirement village.
The program, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of older people by participating in a range of mixed activities in a specially designed pre-school built within a retirement village.
The series commences from 27 August. Find out more here.
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