Since nearly the beginning of Little Scholars, Little Scholars School of Early Learning has been proud to have special friendships in the community with people who live in aged care setting.

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The premise of Little Scholars Intergenerational Program, dating back to 2015, is simple. It’s all about supporting connection between the young and the young at heart and bringing parts of our community together.

“It all began when our leadership team attended an intergenerational forum where we learnt that 16% of people in Australia are over 65 years of age and 45% of these people have reported feelings of loneliness. That’s a huge number and made us want to act,” says Jae Fraser, founder of Little Scholars.

“We also had some feedback from families who had moved here from interstate or internationally, and their children had no physical contact with their grandparents – so this was a wonderful opportunity for us to allow these children to have ‘Grandfriends’.”

Isolation in older people

Isolation and feelings of loneliness are a serious threat for older people, because they’re more likely to live alone, lose family members and friends, suffer from chronic illness and hearing loss. Statistically, one in four older (over 65) Australians live alone.* Of those who live alone, according to a 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey, about 12% didn’t receive visitors in a three-month period, and older men were reported to be less likely to have been visited, at 17%.

In a 2020 Royal Commission report, of the Australians who reported knowing someone in aged care facilities, one third never contacted the people they know, and one in five never visited.

Social isolation has also been linked to mental illness, emotional distress, suicide, the development of dementia, premature death, physical inactivity, poor sleep, and biological effects, including high blood pressure and poorer immune function.

Little Scholars aims to fix this.

Young and young at heart

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With our intergenerational program, the children visit with their grandfriends fortnightly. They do crafts, play games, sing songs, share morning teas and have meaningful chats. For their young-at-heart mates, the visits help alleviate challenges of isolation, and brings joy, feelings of self-worth, developing new friendships, silliness, and fun. For the children, the visits have a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Become more accepting of differences – especially when it comes to disability
  • Learn about the natural aging process and reduce potential fear of elderly people
  • It allows various generations to share stories and pass on their traditions, giving new perspectives
  • Improved memory
  • Enhanced self-esteem, feeling that they’re helping their grandfriends and making a difference
  • Connection to community

So many of the residents just want or need one thing that they can look forward to, to keep them going.

Natalie Carey, Deception Bay campus manager

Our Redland Bay campus started its friendship with a nearby aged care home because a parent worked there. The parent mentioned how much the residents loved when her own children visited, so staff decided to reach out and begin planning an intergenerational program.

“We started with just the kindergarten class, and every time we went down there, we took a different age group with us,” says Jordie, now campus manager of Little Scholars Ormeau 2. “We went there to share high teas, we created hampers for the residents for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas that were donated by our families.”

Our Deception Bay Little Scholars began its program in 2016, when campus manager Nat arranged for the kindergarten children to visit the aged care home Nat’s grandmother lived in.

“We connected with them to be able to give the elderly someone consistent who would come and visit them, as some of them received no visitors,” Nat says. “I learnt this when I spoke to one of my grandma’s carers and she said so many of the residents just want or need one thing that they can look forward to, to keep them going.”

Nat says they started taking the kindergarten children regularly, then extended it down to the younger studios to embed it across their service.

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“We would always take five or six kindergarten children to allow the connections to continue between the children and their grandfriends. The dementia patients, in particular would love our babies, and together we got to create and witness some special moments.”

The Little Scholars Ashmore campus started its intergenerational program last year, after working with Griffith University’s Dr Jennifer Cartmel and PhD student, Jelisa Tan.

Jelisa did her placement at the campus and prepared resources for team members and families. She shared slideshows, floor books and fact sheets with an emphasis on the benefits of the intergenerational program and its progress.

While many of our services have had informal relationships with local aged care residences for many years, we believe the intergenerational program is more important than ever and will be incorporated in all 13 Little Scholars campuses by the end of 2023.

“Celebrating the role older community members play in the development of children is something to be fostered and celebrated. The program is one of the most popular aspects of our services, we’ve found our community loves finding occasions to see the different generations come together and share in a common experience,” Jae says.

Help your child grow physically, emotionally, socially. Our intergenerational program will be at all our campuses by end of 2023. Learn more about Little Scholars.

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