Winifred Nance Kindergarten welcomes seniors for ageless play

Children at Winifred Nance Kindergarten have been enjoying fortnightly visits from seniors as part of a partnership with Colac Area Health’s Miller House.

The ‘WinMil Ageless Connections’ program began in May and already the children and adults are building natural bonds.

BCYF Manager Early Years Education and Community, Julie Molloy, said the program was aimed at connecting children in with the local community and breaking down barriers between the generations.

“Winifred Nance teachers identified that within the Colac community many older people live on their own and they wondered how they had continued their social connections through multiple lockdowns,” Ms Molloy said.

“They wanted to do something to support older members of the community and create the opportunity for them to pass their knowledge on to the children.”

“We know that relationships in the early years form the foundation of self-identity and building of community and felt that an intergenerational program could improve children’s self-esteem, connectedness and wellbeing,” Ms Molloy said.

The kindergarten teamed up with Miller House, which provides social support for older people in the community who live in their own homes, and WinMil Ageless Connections was born.

Miller House Social Support Co-ordinator Sandra Lawrence said children had been welcoming and engaging with the participants.

“WinMil Ageless Connections provides a supported opportunity for our participants and kinder children to learn from each other, feel valued within our community and increases the awareness that no matter what the age, we can still have fun,” she said.

During the fortnightly sessions this term, the adults and children have been getting to know each other and enjoying activities including pot decorating, planting vegetables, free play in the playground, sing alongs and even a teddy bear’s picnic. One of the participants, a former kindergarten teacher at Winifred Nance, is enjoying exploring the environment and passing on her wisdom.

Winifred Nance Kindergarten teacher Tammy Cameron said children and adults were already benefitting from the interaction.

“The children have naturally gravitated to the adults; they are showing empathy and natural skills to support our adults, such as carrying their chairs for them, helping to keep them safe in the playground and ensuring they are participating in the activities set each session,” she said.

The adults have also provided positive feedback through letters and phone calls, although the looks on their faces say it all. “Seeing both adults and children smiling and beaming with excitement on their arrival is priceless to see,” Ms Cameron said.

Based on the early success of the program, and after two years without community members being able to visit kinders, the partners are keen to continue and grow the program.

Research shows that bringing different ages together in an intergenerational program can provide many benefits to all participants such as providing stimulation of learning, new skills, the ability to communicate with a variety of ages, reduce isolation and provides an opportunity to break down barriers regarding ageing.  

Pictured above (from left), Lukas Gage-Brown, Anne Densley and Angus Budge. Photo courtesy of the Colac Herald.

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