Age is no barrier for the new friendships created through the “Community Connections” program. The program is celebrating ten years of bringing children from St Agnes’ Early Education Centre and residents from St Agnes’ Hostel together.
“Intergenerational learning is a specific focus of the Community Connections program,” says Executive Manager of St Joseph’s Family Services, Wendy Ward. “It has brought both young and old together to learn from each other.”
“The program is especially well-received by children and residents who do not have relatives or family nearby, which encourage mentoring and companionship across the generations,” Wendy said.
At an event on Wednesday 7 November to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the program, St Agnes’ Early Education Centre (SAEEC) Manager Karen Algie said children and residents love the wide variety of activities involved in the program.
“Strong bonds have been made between the age groups through everyday tasks such as weeding the vegetable garden, reading stories to each other and everyone’s favourite activity – making pancakes,” Karen said.
“St Agnes’ Hostel residents have taught the children games such as billiards and bingo, and they have learned to understand the difference between past and present childhood activities.”
“Some residents have even enjoyed a return to their youth on the slide and the seesaw in our playground.”
Karen said the program was born out of a conversation ten years ago between one of her educators Jodee Swan-Hicks and Alison Sherratt from Catholic Care of the Aged. From there, the concept evolved into the Community Connections program, teaching children that the idea of a community extends beyond family and friends.
“Children are open to new experiences and for some, it is the first time they have seen walking frames, wheelchairs and begun to understand what it means to get older. Because of the program, the children become more confident and comfortable in establishing connections with people who are different from themselves,” Karen said.
“They are then able to be more accepting and compassionate for others,” Karen concluded.
Catholic Care of the Aged supports the program by providing bus transport for children and staff to visit St Agnes’ Hostel and the residents to SAEEC.
St Agnes’ Early Education Centre is one of three early education centres operated by St Joseph’s Family Services and St Agnes’ Hostel is a facility operated by Catholic Care of the Aged Port Macquarie. Both St Joseph’s Family Services and Catholic Care of the Aged are service areas of St Agnes’ Parish, Port Macquarie.