SIXTEEN-year-old Mornington student Laura Kemp has seen first-hand the significant difference that social connections can make to the lives of the elderly living in aged care or retirement homes.
The year 10 Padua College student is the youngest volunteer with the Chatty Cafe charity, which aims to bring people together for a coffee and a chat at designated venues around the Mornington Peninsula.
Laura said that after witnessing the profound influence that regular social interaction had on her great-grandmother’s wellbeing, especially throughout lockdowns, she was inspired to act.
“I heard about Chatty Cafe so I approached them to see if I could start a scheme that is targeted to elderly people, so either people in aged care homes could meet at a venue, or we could go out to aged care homes,” she said.
“I’ve approached quite a few aged care venues on the peninsula who said they would be interested in getting involved, so we just have to do a bit of planning so it can get off the ground.”
Kemp is almost an expert in facilitating connections, and in the past initiated a similar scheme where primary school students were encouraged to write letters to people in aged care homes.
“That was really fun, and the letters that they would write to people in aged care homes were so sweet, and it’s so lovely to see how thoughtful they are,” she said.
“I have seen the enormous impact that something as simple as a letter or a chat can have on someone’s life.”
The Chatty Cafe scheme is a charity that encourages all sorts of hospitality venues across Australia such as cafes, restaurants, clubs, pubs, community centres and libraries to provide a shared “chatty” table where customers can sit if they are happy to talk to other customers.
Chatty volunteers, if requested by the venue, can sit at the table to help introduce the concept to customers and chat to them.