Generations share time and life lessons at Calvary St Paul’s

Calvary St Paul’s Residential Aged Care resident Lance Batey has advanced dementia and rarely speaks, except when students from Cundletown Public School arrive for their weekly ‘Grandparents Day’.

“Whenever the children come in to visit, Lance just opens up. It’s like the children open the window to where he is Lance again,” Leah Brown, Calvary St Paul’s Leisure and Lifestyle Officer, said.

Cundletown Public School and Calvary St Paul’s run a ‘Grandparents Day’ every Friday and it is the highlight of the week for residents and students alike.

About Grandparents Day…

“When the kids are here it makes us feel a bit brighter, wanted and loved,” Calvary St Paul’s resident, Dorothy Jones, said.

“It makes me feel happier than ever seeing the kids,”

Among its services, Calvary St Paul’s Residential Aged Care provides specialised dementia support and it is these residents who respond the most acutely when the students walk through the front door.

young child helps elderly man drink his water

“When our residents with advanced dementia spend time with the children you get to see a completely different side to them. They look forward to the students visiting, responding with smiles and chatter and some life lessons. It is really beautiful,” Calvary St Paul’s Residential Aged Care Home Manager, Michelle Mckenna, said.

Ms Mckenna developed the idea for the Grandparents Day after relocating to Australia from the UK. The realisation that her own children would miss out on seeing their grandparents regularly left a big hole in her heart.

“There was a Grandparents Day at school and my kids unfortunately don’t have their grandparents close by. I had to do something about it so they didn’t miss out on that important relationship,” Ms Mckenna said.

“The conversation soon shifted to providing students who didn’t have grandparents with the opportunity to develop a special bond with our residents,” Ms Mckenna said.

Playing noughts and crosses, gardening and even baking are among the favourite activities. However, being able to chat and ask as many questions as they want is the highlight for the students.

“I love going to the aged care facility because it feels like I have lots of grandmas and grandpas who are always happy to see me. The residents share their experiences and wisdom, and it’s really cool,” Cundletown Public School student Hayley said.

“They treat our residents with so much respect, they understand that they’ve had lives and that they were young once and that they’ve got a story to tell,”

The Benefits

Bringing the two generations together has been a win-win. Reducing loneliness for some residents and creating grandparent-like bonds with some students, as well as teaching valuable life lessons.

“The elderly have a wealth of experience and wisdom which they share with my students. I have found the visits teach students about resilience, patience, and the value of time,” Cundletown Public School Stage 3 classroom teacher, Lane Poland, said.

“The visits have helped the students gain a new perspective on ageing and life, fostering a sense of gratitude and respect for the life cycle. Mostly I have found engaging with a different age group has enhanced my students’ social skills and emotional intelligence.”

“The best part about visiting the aged care home is the smiles we bring to the residents’ faces. It’s like we light up their day,”

Christmas school holidays means the residents will unfortunately have to wait a little longer than normal to see the students next but, the program’s success will see a new cohort of students visit next year.

“Work is underway to expand the program in the New Year including bringing in another year group for regular visits. I know there’s a lot of parents who want their children involved so we might even have to do ‘Grandparents Day’ two or three days a week which would be a lot of fun,” Ms Brown said.