What could aged care residents possibly have in common with a bunch of lively four year olds?
That’s the story line of a new ABC TV fly-on-the-wall documentary series Old Peoples’ Home for 4 Year Olds.
The series brings together residents of the Anzac Village on Sydney’s northern beaches, ranging in age from 78 to 95, many of whom appear reluctant to participate in what is being called a television ‘social experiment’.
We’re introduced to the residents and their ailments, such as a 85 year old Eric, who reveals “We’re not here to be cared for. We’re here to die.”
There are terrific lighter moments too and the series asks the question “As Australia's older population increases, so too will the issues that affect their health and happiness. Could the solution to a better life for older Australians be as simple as spending time with 4-year olds?”
The answer seems to be a resounding YES if a new Griffith University study into intergenerational engagement is anything to go by.
The study is of 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.
Through the interactions with children, the older people were able to reaffirm their feelings of importance, reflect on their achievements, re-learn things they already knew or had forgotten, and experience a positive sense of wellbeing.
Intergenerational Care Project chief investigator and program evaluation lead, Professor Anneke Fitzgerald said aged care recipients formed special bonds with the children.
“What we saw over time is that people grew much more comfortable with each other, that there is quite a bit more bonding, especially through physical contact,” Professor Fitzgerald said.
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.
In last week’s edition of Connect, we also spoke about the benefits of intergenerational bonding.
Strong intergenerational relationships can help combat negative stereotypes and prevent ageism.