Intergenerational friendships benefit young and old16th September 2021 | 3 min read
As people age and their social networks become smaller, it’s important they have opportunities to continue to engage with the wider community. Story-sharing across the generations brings people together and promotes social connectedness between young and old. Importantly, sharing stories of their life experience helps older people stay connected to their identity while passing on their wisdom to others.
After a successful trial in 2019, Annandale Grove Care Community and International Grammar School (IGS) in nearby Ultimo, participated in a unique intergenerational program in 2020. As featured in our 2020 Social Impact Report, the Seniors & Teens Empathy Program (STEP) is based around the principle of story-sharing. Samantha Heron, program designer and founder of partner social enterprise, Heart and Soul Story, seeks to connect participants across generations to help them explore, share and examine their stories.
The aim was to foster empathy, promote a sense of community, increase resilience and wellbeing and help encourage inspired and soulful lives across generations.
With visitor restrictions due to COVID, the program was facilitated over nine weeks utilising video conferencing systems for the students and residents. Embracing technology was a challenge that everyone, including our elders, enjoyed - many of whom had never used an iPad before. After a few weeks of information sessions to familiarise participants with the virtual technology, the students enjoyed getting to know our residents through a series of introductory conversations, where they quickly found common ground together. Be it through a shared passion for music, travel, animals or history, the bond between students and elders strengthened through the program, which involved set activities as well as open conversation and storytelling.
The students, their parents, our residents and team joined together virtually to conclude the program with a heartfelt session in which insights were shared and friendships celebrated. Those friendships have continued beyond the structured program with students and residents continuing to connect in their own time.
Annandale Grove Care Community resumed the program in April this year. In their most recent session, students and residents enjoyed a discussion around R U OK? Day, paying tribute to those who have supported them during the ups and downs of the pandemic.
Due to the success of the STEP program, we look forward to extending it to more Opal HealthCare Care Communities soon.