Carnsworth Community’s intergenerational kindergarten program gained nationwide attention this month, being named a finalist in the HESTA Aged Care Awards and welcoming a Federal politician.
The Carnsworth Leisure and Lifestyle team – led by Coordinator Vindhya Mendis – was a finalist for the HESTA Team Innovation Award for its Celebrating Intergenerational Relationships and Creating Learning for Everyone (CIRCLE) program.
Uniting AgeWell representatives, including Vindhya, attended the award ceremony in Adelaide on November 23 but missed out to the Crest NT and Southern Cross Care SA&NT teams for their Aged Care Indigenous Induction Program.
General Manager Victoria, Vicky Jacques, said while they were disappointed not to win, being named a finalist was wonderful recognition of the many benefits of the program.
Earlier in the month, Federal Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care and Shadow Assistant Minister for Ageing, Senator Helen Polley, visited Carnsworth to see the program in action.
She spent an hour mingling with the Davis Street Kindergarten children and Carnsworth residents and was very impressed with what she saw.
“Anything that is going to re-engage our older people with their memories is a really good thing,” she said.
“When I walked into this room it gave me the most amazing feeling. There was a lot of energy and a lot of engagement.”
While some residents enjoy just watching the children, 106-year-old Thelma Barnes loves to engage multiple children at once.
“I enjoy doing the word games with them,” she said as three children crowded around her at the table.
“Some of them are really brainy for little children. It’s also really nice when they sit down and sing.”
Since its inception in July 2016, Davis Street Kindergarten teacher Ruth Wallbridge has seen developmental growth in the children who attend.
“We find there is an increase in empathy and of thinking of the other,” she said.
“We often see this switch between teacher and student as well. You might see children showing the residents how to do something, or holding their hands steady to thread beads. The switch of role is quite significant.”
Senator Polley was particularly interested in the benefits of the intergenerational connection between children and older people whose own families lived far away.
“A lot of families are disconnected by geography and they may not always have children come to visit them, so these days are lovely for them,” she said.
“Due to that distance, children don’t always get to see their grandparents and we all know that a lot of life lessons and experiences are passed on through those relationships. Now, they get that through this program.”
The Senator was so touched by her visit she referenced it in a speech to Federal Parliament.
“As far as I'm concerned, whether they win or not is irrelevant, because they are already winners,” she told the Senate.
“This is a win-win situation for the kindergarten, for the students, for the residential home and, particularly, for those older Australians, so congratulations to all of those involved.”