By: Yvette McDonnell
Could an encounter between the elderly and preschoolers transform the lives of both generations?
The ABC documentary Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds was a touching documentary that melted the hearts of viewers.
However, it was not just about good entertainment, it was an important social experiment to see whether an interaction between the elderly and the young could improve lives.
The result? Deep, beautiful friendships were forged. The show showed improvement in the health and quality of life in the elderly and in the young, an increase in learning and emotional intelligence, particularly in empathy.
The second series of the popular program was filmed in the hall of St Nicolas’ Anglican Church, Coogee.
The parish has hosted two 10-week studies, run by researchers from the University of NSW, with older people from the community and children from St Nics’ Christian Preschool.
Reverend Craig Segaert, who was involved with the research, said, “If we had to choose just one word that categorised the whole of those two programs, it would be ‘joy’”.
“We know from the feedback of the older people it wasn’t just happiness they felt, it was deep joy – they connected with their former childhoods, and they felt that they had real purpose in their lives,” he said.
“There were even tears in their eyes when the program finished.”
Rev Segaert said that one of the participants commented, “The children lighten our souls and bring great joy to our world”.
These studies have led to a $3.7 million grant from the Federal Government to conduct expanded clinical trials at up to 44 preschool sites over the next two years.
The researchers from UNSW and the George Institute for Global Health are now looking for anyone over 65 years old living independently to participate in this unique social experiment.
Dr Ruth Peters, who leads the team that won the grant, works as the program leader for dementia in the Global Brain Health Initiative at The George Institute for Global Health.
“You see positive anecdotal outcomes from the TV show and from the feasibility studies we’ve done but what we need to do now is collect the scientific data to measure the potential benefits,” Dr Peters said.
“This way, we can then go to governments who will be able to see our empirical results and use them to support their funding decisions.”
The Intergenerational Integrity Trial will require a commitment of two hours per week for 20 weeks. It will be held in a preschool in the participant’s area and is guaranteed to be filled with fun activities.
If you are over 65 years, reside in the community, able to walk 6m with or without a walking aid, able to sit or stand from an armed chair and do not have a diagnosis of dementia, you are able to apply for the program.
If you do not have a valid Working with Children Check it will be free to obtain under the program.
Visit georgeinstitute.org for more details or contact the Integrity trial team at 8052 4337.
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.
Feature image: Screenshot, Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds