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Grandfriends program ensures residents are ‘Busy Bees’

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New Lambton’s St John’s Villa has taken a leaf from a popular television program to entertain its residents.

Lifestyle coordinator Aymon Jones drew inspiration after watching ABC’s much-loved Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds and reached out to Busy Bees service manager Ashton Meadows, who was equally excited to establish the initiative at the childcare centre.

Now, the group of Catholic Healthcare locals – who regularly visit the Cameron Park locale – are affectionately known as Grandfriends.

“It was so amazing to watch the residents open up and say to the children, ‘come and play with me’,” Mr Jones said.

“The interactions between those young in years and those young-at-heart are heart-warming.

“Seeing their faces light up and listening to the laughter and conversation between the two groups is so rewarding.

“In fact, the residents enjoyed the first visit so much they were enquiring when they would be returning to see the children.”

To maintain the friendships, Mr Jones and Ms Meadows came up with another brilliant idea.

“We are sending letters back and forth to our little friends at Busy Bees to keep the communication open between visits,” he said.

“Research suggests that intergenerational programs are beneficial for both age groups.

“The older members receive stimulation and social interaction, and the younger ones can learn something, too.

“Another benefit is those who live far from their families or frequently feel the longing for interaction with their grandchildren, the visits offer a new dimension of diversional therapy, with the effects demonstrating positively long after each visit.”

Ms Meadows echoed Mr Jones’ sentiments.

“The initiative provides learning opportunities for all involved,” she said.

“It allows both our Grandfriends and children to engage in co-constructed learning by coming together as equal partners.

“The family interest has been phenomenal as well.

“They’re excited for their children to participate in the program.

“When the Grandfriends visit, the service educators set up small and engaging experiences that they can all be involved in together.

“This includes painting, reading stories and construction activities.”

Ms Meadows said the Busy Bees philosophy was built on play-based learning, which was embedded in their everyday practice and extended into their incursions.

“Giving the children this chance, they’re able to participate in society and increase social connections within the community,” she added.

“In our pre-school room, we have a strong transition to school ethos.

“Part of that is developing children to be confident in their social and emotional wellbeing.

“So, being a part of this initiative allows them to develop positive attitudes towards older people, empathy, prosocial behaviours and coping strategies.

“One of the highlights [of the program] has been watching children participate and interact and knowing that child hasn’t experienced a grandparent relationship before.

“To witness that connection developing between these ages is a very special thing to be a part of.”

But, the final word goes to four-year-old Lucy.

“I love painting together with the Grandfriends; Joan is really good,” she said.

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