New program unites children with elderly for story time

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Trudi and Madeline share a hug. Photo: Supplied
Trudi and Madeline share a hug. Photo: Supplied

They’re separated by generations but united by the simple joy of sharing each other’s company.

Each Monday, a group of youngsters from Beaconsfield Children’s Hub eagerly await a special group of visitors from Villa Maria Catholic Homes’ aged care residence in Berwick, Melbourne.

The children, aged three to six years old, spend the morning baking a cake and making cards to greet the six residents upon their arrival.

After the cake and card presentations, each child chooses a book to share with a resident, followed by a special song or dance performance by the children.

Hub director Samantha Gould said the program, Generations Together, was the first of its kind for the centre.

“The children are so excited to be part of this program,” she said. “It is such a treat for them to be able to venture down to our multi-purpose room and they are quite proud to present the residents with the pictures they have made.

“Some of the children are very shy at first but it doesn’t take them long to warm up. After the sessions the children are buzzing with excitement and love to tell us about the time they have spent with their new friends.”

Samantha said the one-on-one time had boosted the children’s self-confidence, particularly those without large, extended families.

“Building a relationship with potential role models and having the continuity of an adult figure with them each week has also benefited them greatly,” Samantha said.

“Their families have noted this change and have commented on the children’s excitement and positivity when coming home.”

Villa Maria lifestyle co-ordinator Carolyn Buckley said residents also looked forward to their visits.

“It’s a very enjoyable time for both the children and the residents. The children are a little shy to start with but it doesn’t take too long for them to come around. All the residents who have visited the Hub are amazed at how welcoming the children are. It’s a great opportunity to bring the community together from the very young to the more mature.”

Residents Stan and Doreen read to Sophie. Photo: Supplied
Residents Stan and Doreen read to Sophie. Photo: Supplied

Resident Doreen, 74, described the children as “very friendly and welcoming … They bring us so much joy”.

World War II veteran Stan, 92, enjoys the visits, as a great-grandfather to 34 children.

“It’s always lovely to be around the children,” he said. “I was very impressed at how well-behaved they are towards us. I hope they all have a good life.”
Trudi, 82, described her first visit as “refreshing”.

“The children were very loving and I didn’t expect such a positive reaction from beautiful little Madeline.”

The visits began in April and will continue throughout the year.