Residents and children at an intergenerational site in Queensland

Early findings of a project evaluating different models of care involving aged care recipients and children indicate that intergenerational approaches can reduce social isolation among older people.

The lead researchers of Griffith University’s Intergenerational Care Project will discuss the preliminary findings of the project at a public forum with live webcast next month.

The commonwealth-funded project involved children aged 3-5 years and aged care recipients at three day respite centres and one residential aged care facility in Queensland and New South Wales (read more here).

It is evaluating the benefits of children and aged care residents engaging in social and learning activities using the following two models of care:

  • a shared campus model, where a residential aged care facility and child care centre are located on the same site and share common facilities
  • a visiting campus model, where the two centres are located separately and clients of one would travel to the other facility.

The project is investigating the impact of one-hour weekly sessions of groups of 3 to 16 children and aged care recipients at each site over 16 weeks.

Intergenerational Care project manager and Griffith University research fellow Dr Xanthe Golenko said the project aimed to promote engagement between the generations and give participants a sense of purpose.

“One of the biggest issues of ageing and cognitive decline is social isolation,” Dr Golenko told Australian Ageing Agenda.

She said the project reduced social isolation among older people through their participation in joint activities and shared learning.

“You could see relationships starting to build between the children and the older people,” Dr Golenko said.

Dr Xanthe Golenko

“Encouraging that social interaction is important and it gives [participants] a sense of purpose and enjoyment,” she said.

Residents and children took part in activities such as painting, singing, ten pin bowling and show and tell, she said.

“The project focused on creating a safe space so that everybody felt safe, respected and comfortable.”

People are able to engage in more complex activities and interactions when they feel comfortable and trust each other, Dr Golenko said.

The program was co-developed with staff involved to allow flexibility and to ensure it suited the different abilities of children and cognitive abilities of older participants, she said.

“Staff were able to tailor it specifically to their participants so the needs of the older people as well as the children were met,” Dr Golenko said.

She said she hoped to see these types of models rolled out more widely in the future.

“It’s going to make a big impact on building age and dementia friendly communities,” Dr Golenko said.

Final results of the research are expected to be available mid next year, she said.

A public forum where researchers and representatives from the participating organisations will speak about their experiences and answer questions on the implementation process will be held at Griffith University on 14 November.

Find out more on the Intergenerational Care Project and register to join a live webcast of the forum here.

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