There is something extremely powerful about being part of a community, that goes way past anything that a person can attain by themselves.
How you feel about yourself, is more often than not, a reflection of the way you are treated by others, and being part of a community environment can bring friendship, comradery, and a sense of purpose that comes with knowing that you play a valued role in something bigger than just yourself.
There is an old African proverb that reads ‘It Takes a Village To Raise a Child,” which alludes to the fact that everyone in a child’s life needs to play a part in keeping this child healthy and safe, and now in 2019, there are a number of ageless playgroups in the state of South Australia that provide living proof that these types of environments are fantastic for more than just the children.
Playgroup SA is a non-profit, community-based organisation that has been operating since 1974 and currently runs more than 300 playgroups across the state of South Australia.
Yet, unlike the vast majority of playgroups that you are likely to find everywhere else in the country, 14 of these playgroups are actually open to people of all ages and encourage participation from elderly people and their carers.
Playgroup SA Chief Executive Officer, Craig Bradbrook, shared his thoughts with HelloCare regarding the amazing response that intergenerational playgroups are getting from the public and the magic that can happen when you bring young Australians and elderly Australians together.
“We are receiving more and more phone calls and messages on Facebook from the public every week – where is the nearest one from where I live? Or, what can I do to start an intergenerational playgroup?” said Craig.
“When the elderly connect with the children, it seems to bring back memories from their childhood and working career, and re-engaging happy positive memories is priceless.”
“One resident who has dementia also had a background in teaching. I was listening to a conversation and she was explaining to a child that ‘with pencil shavings, you can rub them on the paper and it makes a shading effect.’ The child was astounded, and you could see, for the resident, sharing that knowledge gave a real sense of purpose.”
Sadly, a sense of purpose is not something that all elderly Australians have at the moment, and a large percentage of the population are unaware of the severity and the consequences of social isolation in our elderly population, as many people in the 65+ age group experience loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
It may also surprise you to know that men over the age of 85 actually have the country’s highest rate of suicide, and that’s what makes these types of environments so special to the elderly people who get a chance to participate.
“I was chatting to a resident the other day, now, each week they come down to the rec room, and prepare fruit for morning tea for the kids and everyone that’s involved. She was saying how much she looks forward to it, feeling like she is able to really contribute to the community, she is staying connected, and it’s the highlight of her week!” said Craig.
And while you may think that the elderly people that participate gain the most from an emotional wellbeing standpoint, the positive effect of surrounding preschool children with older people can not be overstated, as it helps them gain knowledge and confidence.
“From infants sitting with residents, to the toddlers showing off their toys, and preschoolers drawing; they are all so proud. You can see a real sense of connection as the children engage with residents and they play and have fun together.”
The general public has seen a lot of exciting new initiatives in the aged care space in recent years, and the majority of evidence-based positive results, seem to stem from activities that give elderly people a sense of purpose an individual identity.
“As we turn to our phones more and more, the human connection side is absolutely crucial for everyone’s well being. I really see Playgroups as essential to supporting children, families and older people by bringing the Australian community back together,” said Craig.
Photo Courtesy of ABC