With much of Australia in lockdown for extended periods during 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, people living in residential aged care were some of the most affected.
Anglicare noticed that extended lockdowns created a sense of anxiety and disconnect among their residents. The decreased physical contact from family and friends resulted in a greater feeling of isolation and loneliness, and in some cases increased depression.
Virtual intergenerational play
Anglicare and Playgroup NSW formed an innovative partnership, and together they collaborated with technology provider Apple, to create a virtual intergenerational play program called Timeless Play: Connects.
The model evolved from Playgroup NSW intergenerational in-person groups, which have been running over the last eight years.
The program uses technology as an enabler, and aims to foster connectedness and enhance mental health and wellbeing for older Australians experiencing isolation.
The Timeless Play program involves aged care clients joining with three to six year olds and their carers, to learn and connect with each other. The sessions build digital literacy in both the older and younger participants and offer valuable social interaction, learning and play experiences for the children and carers.
Benefits of intergenerational connection
A growing body of evidence demonstrates the benefits of Intergenerational programs. Anglicare’s own service experience demonstrates that Timeless Play is achieving positive and mutually beneficial outcomes for young and old, improving mental wellbeing for older people, and increasing digital literacy and social connectedness.
The University of Wollongong is evaluating the initiative to identify the benefits in relation to learning, cognition and social inclusion, with early evidence showing that the program has created new social connections.
Carers report that aged care clients who previously didn’t socialise now regularly come together to discuss their weekly experiences and benefits. Parents report that the groups have become a weekly highlight for their child, particularly for children who don’t have grandparents or limited access to extended family.
In the words of Lyell
Lyell, 81, a participant, says: “Just seeing the expressions on the children’s faces, and how they change as people spoke and showed them things was great… It’s great to interact with children from other areas, as well as the opportunity to learn a little bit about the technology involved. Just make sure your hearing aid is up loud!”
Recognised by industry
Anglicare and Playgroup NSW were as a finalist in the Enhancing Consumer Experience award in the 2021 innovAGEING National Awards.