We’re part of the ongoing conversation about care alternatives that can offer more flexibility to our community. We connected with Neri S. to learn more about an innovative, human-centred solution that could change the lives of many Australian families.
NM: What is intergenerational care?
NS: Intergenerational work can encompass all manner of projects and programs but essentially it is about bringing different generations together to connect, share, teach and learn from each another.
NM: How did you come to discover intergenerational care?
NS: It has been a slow and winding path that has led to my passion for intergenerational work. Having trained as a social worker and working predominantly in palliative and aged care, I regularly see the impact of isolation and loneliness on older people. I remember working with a woman in palliative care many years ago, who told me that she really missed the company of younger people and I have had younger people tell me they miss contact with older people. To me, bringing the generations together just makes sense.
NM: What’s an intergenerational care centre like?
NS: Intergenerational work is currently more developed in other parts of the world. In Australia, it is still in its infancy. There is some inspiring work happening out there. The US has a number of intergenerational facilities, where a kindergarten or childcare centre is located inside an aged care facility and the residents and children participate in shared programs throughout the day. The impacts of such programs are explored in an intergenerational report, Holding Hands, which concludes that the benefits of shared site facilities include no fear of age (ageism) or disability, development of empathy and the sharing of knowledge.
Another intergenerational model is that of Humanitas in the Netherlands. Humanitas is an aged care facility that has rooms in which university students live free of charge in exchange for spending time each week with the residents. It has previously featured on an episode of Dateline and to see stereotypes fall away and real connections flourish is a beautiful thing.
NM: What’s next?
NS: Intergenerational work has the capacity to harness the young, the old and everyone in-between. It is about connection and humanity and to me, it has the ability to enrich our lives immensely.