Bridging the Age Gap at BlueCross

on the Monday, November 13, 2017

An innovative, intergenerational program hosted at BlueCross’ Livingstone Gardens Aged Care Residence, and devised by Livingstone Primary School, is closing the gap between the old and new generations. 

Students and residents are brought together to discuss and understand life ‘then and now’. A collaborative venture headed by teachers Diane Ballintine and Caleb Webb, in conjunction with Joanne King, BlueCross’ Leisure and Lifestyle Co-ordinator, the program was enabled by the City of Whitehorse’s Intergenerational Grant Program.

The project brings together Year Five students from Livingstone, into the state-of-the-art facilities at Livingstone Gardens, where they discuss life “back then” with an elderly counterpart, and share their own experiences of life for youths today.

The initiative began on 18 August of this year, and ran for twelve weeks, with both Livingstone Primary and BlueCross aligned in their goal for a sustainable, ongoing program to become a permanent addition to the school’s senior year curriculum. The benefits so far have been observed and celebrated by all involved. 

“The objective of this program is to build lasting, sustainable and open relationships between the students and the elderly,” said Ms King. “We are trying to create a safe and nurturing environment for both groups to promote and stimulate the mental and social wellbeing of both students and the residents. It also provides invaluable communication skills for the students as they look ahead to their own futures”.

Each week of the program has been carefully planned, starting with an introductory session and building up to a one-on-one meeting where students and residents work in pairs to develop a stronger connection. The theme of the project has been personal, family and local history, with the groups working towards projects such as a “Family Museum” and “Heritage Circle”. 

“The children and residents have been exploring and celebrating their individual and collective histories, learning from each other how the past can help to shape a better future. For instance, residents have shared stories of their experiences in wartime, and talked about their childhoods – long before iPhones, computers, and the internet!”

Not only have the students been engaged with the residents about significant historical moments and memories, but the residents have been able to relive and celebrate their own contributions towards shaping Australia as it is today. Both groups have enjoyed learning about what life is like at either end of the age spectrum, and understanding that both youth and the elderly – often marginalised groups – are valued and valuable to society. 

From the students’ perspective, the program has also been instrumental in helping them see themselves as part of a greater community, widening their social understanding through meaningful interaction with some of its older residents. It is a genuine “shared” perspective, with all fifteen of the BlueCross participants and their young counterparts eager to complete homework for the program.

Today the program was celebrated with a special event which hosted Whitehorse Council dignitaries, and Neil Angus MP-State Member for Forest Hill. They attended Livingstone Gardens Aged Care Residence, met the program’s co-ordinators, and heard first-hand from the students and residents about their unique experiences. As a memento, each participant was presented with a photo book – a collection of the special moments they have spent together. Ms Ballintine and Ms King agree that the program has been a great success, and they hope to secure ongoing funding to enable the initiative’s continued success. 

“There’s no doubt both the students and our residents have embraced this opportunity,” says Ms King. “It has been a rewarding experience for everyone involved”.

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