Residents happier with kids around, study finds

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.

Aged care recipients formed personal connections with children in the project

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.

Dr Xanthe Golenko

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.

Workforce outcomes

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.

Program sustainability

Younger and older participants formed better personal connections with each other when they participated in low energy activities

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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Tags: abc, Dementia and Aged Care Services, Dr Katrina Radford, Dr Xanthe Golenko, griffith-university, Intergenerational Care Project, news-6, Nicole Moretto, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, Professor Anneke Fitzgerald, slider,

7 thoughts on “Residents happier with kids around, study finds

  1. Perth based NFP Community Aged Care organization, Melville Cares has an inter generational activity program operating over the weekend whereby the Community Aged Care model of support is applied. The project is called the Grand Collective and introduces all age groups to meet and mingle in a safe setting. This was born from the need to bring back a family feel environment to isolated people within their local Melville Community. for further information.

  2. This might be a “heart-warming” story for those who choose to warehouse their elderly relatives and children in institutions. To me it is a dystopian parody of the caring family. In earlier times (and not that long ago – perhaps just one generation) families cared for their elders and children at home. Both is good times and bad. It wasn’t just jolly dress-ups with fake grand-children and hand-picked elderly for the ABC cameras. But real hard work day in day out done out of real genuine (unpaid) love and care. When you see the words “trial” and “pilot” just think “my funded research project” and “my honors thesis”.

  3. W E Sullivan I could not agree more. As a society we have lost our ability to connect and the health ‘system’ actively shuns relationship based care, that is the care that closely mirrors that of a functioning family. I really despair at where the majority place their value in society as it is certainly not focused on care and connection and the value of deep human relationships.

  4. The Royal Commission has flushed out a raft of vested interests all looking for a piece of the action. Researchers looking to have their funding extended, IT developers trying to market their “solutions”, nurses unions looking for more membership income, an army of unemployed counselors looking for stressed carers to play relaxation tapes to, and bureaucrats to get a step up the public service ladder by “delivering” on short-term trials and projects that can be ticked off and forgotten. If it isn’t a family, even if it has a “family feel” it isn’t a family. How can any thinking person feel good about this charade.

  5. ‘WE Sullivan’ You are either narrow minded or you have lots of money to live free of employment and care for loved ones within your own means. I don’t think you realise that the reality is many people, including the elderly, don’t have family or relatives to care for them – for whatever reason. Parents of children in day care centres also place their children in these ‘institutions’, in majority of cases, for good reason. Firstly, parents need to return to work and earn money to provide for their children as living off social support isn’t a positive or viable long term option. Secondly, lots of children thrive socially and learn a whole lot from the play and education provided in these centres. Never assume that a parent makes an easy decision of leaving their child and going off to work instead. Its often not a preference but a necessity. I think this is a great project and should be implemented in many more locations. Any activity that improves quality of life of our residents in care facilities (and simultaneously benefits the younger generations) is welcome.

  6. I am sorry if my earlier comment has been taken personally. I did not mean to come across as condescending or patronizing.

    But just clarify I am on the full pension so I am not rich.

    If it is narrow minded to suggest that this Intergenerational sideshow parodies family values then I’m prepared to plead guilty to that.

    I acknowledge that there are many elderly people in aged care facilities who have no other options. But there are many there too who have been “warehoused” by their children who don’t care enough to make even small sacrifices.

    This sham spectacle (“Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds”) is just feel-good prime-time TV balm for the suppressed guilt feelings of a generation for whom the family apparently has had its day.

  7. When someone you love dies, you experience grief and regret. The grief may eventually give way to resignation, remembrance and reflection; but regret never goes away. It is as cold and bitter as on the day your loved one passed away. I’ve worked in aged care for twenty five years and I see it every day. Mum or Dad gets dumped and the children get back to their “busy lives”. Perhaps they drag the grandchildren in for a visit on birthdays and Christmas, perhaps not. W. Sullivan you are not narrow-minded. Thank you for calling out the self-centredness of a generation the puts flatscreen TVs and holidays above their loved ones’ welfare and happiness. I often want to tell people as they “settle in” Mum or Dad at our facility – “you can do it, just work it out. You’ll be tired and in the end you’ll be sad but you won’t have never ending regrets”.

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