CONSTRUCTION has begun on one of Australia’s first shared-roof intergenerational care centres that will provide life-changing interactions between Mornington aged care residents and children.
Early childhood teachers Anna and Fiona Glumac say the concept of mixing older people with younger ones was inspired largely by their late grandmother Mary, who spent the last year of her life in residential aged care.
In 2017, the Glumac sisters were so moved by a documentary on an intergenerational care centre in the US city of Seattle, they decided to bring the same model of care to Australia.
They created The Herd, a name which pays homage to the respect elephants have for elderly herd members.
“When our beautiful grandma made the transition to residential aged care, it was heartbreaking to see some of her spark fade. She lit up around young children, so a program like this would have been life giving,“ Fiona Glumac said. “Our project is for her.”
The Herd Intergenerational Learning Centre, which is being built under the same roof as the Uniting AgeWell Andrew Kerr Care centre, will care for up to 66 children aged from six weeks to four years.
Aged care residents will be able to visit a lounge space and watch the children play, and there will be opportunities for shared activities, including art, music and storytelling.
Recent research shows intergenerational care can reduce the risk of developing dementia and combat isolation and loneliness in the elderly. Children can also benefit, developing higher levels of empathy and social acceptance.
Anna Glumac said she hoped the centre would inspire similar projects, so the model of care became “more of the norm in Australia”.
“Our project is unique because residents will have the opportunity to come to the childcare centre and experience the joy of seeing and hearing the children in play whenever they are feeling lonely.”
Uniting AgeWell chief executive officer Andrew Kinnersly said intergenerational programs could improve the quality of life of residents, while also being of benefit to younger participants.
“Enabling older people living in residential care to continue to contribute and to engage with their community is extremely important, it’s why we are excited by the opportunities this innovative, shared-roof intergenerational learning centre presents to both young and old.,” he said.
To commemorate construction starting, a big blue front door has been created in front of the construction site, covered with colourful painted handprints from the aged care residents and children to be enrolled in The Herd.
To finish off the door, Rose Smith, Uniting AgeWell resident and a two-year-old Walter (who is enrolled to attend The Herd), imprinted their painted handprints to symbolise both generations stamping their wave of support on the new initiative.
The centre is scheduled to open in early 2023.