An inter-generational playgroup is bringing joy to the lives of a group of senior citizens and their preschool friends.
Once a week at SummitCare Wallsend the aches and pains of old age are forgotten when a group of children under five drop in with their parents for a session of games, songs, craft activities and the occasional bit of silliness, designed to help the generations connect and find their way to friendship and understanding.
SummitCare Wallsend general manager Robyn Blackwell said the program, known as Youngsters at the Summit, has been running for almost two years.
It has been well received by the community and has a range of benefits for young and old alike.
She said the regular interaction helped reduce depression in the residents of the aged care facility and gave them more of a sense of connection to the community.
Ms Blackwell said the effect on the senior citizens' mental health was obvious, both before, during and after the playgroup sessions. "Their sense of anticipation and joy when the playgroup arrives is wonderful to see," Ms Blackwell said.
"And clinically - as we always seem to view the world in aged care - you can see that when residents are giggling with a child, or making up stories, or watching them play, they are breathing better, happier and more motivated to move about in order to interact with the kids. We see the sense of familiarity with holding, playing with and enjoying the babies, as well as the playfulness and engagement that our residents have with the older children."
Ms Blackwell said both the youngsters and the parents also benefited from the interaction.
"The children learn lots from residents and the fact that it is a playgroup means that mums, and sometimes dads, help residents hear the little ones' questions or queries," she said.
The children, in turn, thrive in this nurturing environment, knowing that a parent is close by, and enjoying the fact there are people doting on their every move and delighting in their play.
"The children help motivate residents to move and help them recall and reminisce in a way that has a huge impact," Ms Blackwell said.
"Parents also get a chance not only to meet and support one another, as in a typical playgroup, but also to learn from the residents and develop bonds with them. Everyone wins!"
Ms Blackwell said one success story of the program had come from a playgroup mum who was a talented photographer. She was asked to document the centre's recent 10th birthday party and her images were so well received that it has given her the confidence to pursue a career in photography.