Fun bridges the generations

Each week, children come together with residents from Brightwater Madeley to prove fun has no age limit.

The Madeley aged care home started an intergenerational playgroup in conjunction with Playgroup WA more than a decade ago, and is the only Brightwater location still running the program.

Brightwater allied health team leader Karen Gall says the initiative started to help fill the intergenerational void often present in care facilities.

Brightwater Madeley resident Mary enjoys watching her great-grandchild play in the distance. Photo: Steven Thomas.

“It was providing a link with children for some residents who didn’t have that contact,” Ms Gall says.

“Playgroup is just one of several intergenerational things we’ve got going on here.”

Brightwater therapy assistant Donna Alderson, who oversees the program, says the playgroup starts with morning tea before the day’s activities.

“We’ll try to incorporate some games with the residents, and then we have a time when they’ll have stories and singalongs which the residents really enjoy the singing because they often remember the songs they sang for their children so it’s nice for reminiscing,” Ms Alderson says.

“They’ll [the children] sometimes bring out their little tea sets and they’ll play tea parties with the residents, they may do some drawings … we’ve got a really large balloon for them to throw to the residents which is nice.”

Throwing a balloon is one activity which allows the residents to get involved without having to move around. Photo: Steven Thomas.

Playgroup WA development officer Alicia Harlow says the benefits for the aged care residents are endless.

“It’s wonderful for them to reflect on their life when their children were younger, it does recall a lot of fond memories of their children when they were younger,” Ms Harlow says.

But the benefits don’t end with the residents.

“For the children who don’t have that grandparent role model, for them it’s almost like an adopted grandparent to them,” Ms Harlow says.

“They’ll go up to them just like they would if they were their own grandparent.”

Smiles transcend the generations as children and their parents meet the residents. Photo: Steven Thomas.

Donna Alderson says the connection between the generations is a magical sight which is hard to define.

“The residents may have been having a bit of a sleep in their chair but once you bring them into the playgroup, their eyes light up and they’re smiling,” she says.

“They sit there the whole time and they’re engaged which is really lovely.

“It’s almost like they connect and can understand each other without words.

“It’s hard to put into words what happens but it’s special.”

Some of those who attend the playgroup explain what they love most about the program. Video: Steven Thomas.

Bobbie Shingler has attended the Madeley playgroup since her mother became a resident ten years ago.

She says many of her grandchildren attend the playgroup sessions until they’re old enough to start kindergarten.

“My oldest granddaughter who is now twelve was just eighteen months old so I started bringing her along,” Ms Shingler says.

“Now I’ve got another daughter’s little boy who I bring along this year.

Bobbie’s visit with the grandkids is something her mum looks forward to.

“Although she can’t articulate very well, she just sits and watches them and grins at them.”

Aged care residents form a special bond with the children. Photo: Steven Thomas.