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Australia considers intergenerational nursing -

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Australia considers intergenerational nursing homes

Reporter: Jocelyn Nettlefold

KERRY O'BRIEN: It used to be the social norm - children playing with their grandparents and
learning from their elders. But the size and mobility of the modern family means that many children
aren't in regular contact with anyone older than their parents, while many elderly people sit
isolated in nursing homes craving contact. Overseas, the trend in modern care is to put the
generations together. Research from the US shows these intergenerational programs benefit both
young and old. Now, an Australian nursing home has taken the plunge and next week international
experts will meet in Melbourne to explore whether Australia would be better off by linking the age
groups together more often. Jocelyn Nettlefold reports.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD, REPORTER: Isabella and Zoe Shackcloth are too young for school. Instead, they
are packing their bags for a day in child care. The sisters look forward to playing at their
early-learning centre in southern Tasmania a few times a week. They are always eager to catch up
with their friends, including some of their new playmates, who are at least six decades older and
not as flash dancing on one leg as they might have once been. Mixing the old and young here is more
than a feel-good visit. The programs are at the forefront of a global trend in modern care to bring
generations together. The Anglican Church has built the childcare centre on the site of a nursing
home. It's run by St Michael's Collegiate School. Principal Robyn Kronenberg says regular contact
with aged residents gives the preschoolers an important and increasingly rare chance to relate to
older people.

ROBYN KRONENBERG, PRINCIPAL, ST MICHAEL'S COLLEGIATE: If you go back to the extended family when I
was growing up, grandparents and older Australians and uncles were a part of that socialisation and
we are losing that because of the nature of our family units and the fact that we're more mobile.

DONNA BUTTS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GENERATIONS UNITED: One thing we know is that older adults who are
suffering from dementia, that they are actually more cognitively aware when there are children
around. With children, what some of the studies are starting to show is that they don't have the
same fear of ageing, or the same sort of, "Old people, they smell."

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: This positive research from the United States encouraged the operator OneCare
to be part of the intergenerational program. Having child care on site was instantly popular with
staff juggling family commitments, yet some of the ageing residents have taken a little bit of time
getting used to mixing with the children.

MICHAEL POWELL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, ONECARE: Young ones are a bit noisy sometimes and I hear our
residents saying, "Oh, it was a bit noisy over there as I sitting in helping them read or
whatever". But I think that is great because it really does introduce them to those experiences
that they perhaps wouldn't get living in our nursing home.

FAY STRINGER: It takes you back to when our kids were that size and our grandkids were that size.

BERNADETTE BEZZINA: Makes you feel nostalgic.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: For the visiting neighbours the regular sing-alongs, or reading workshops are a
lively addition to everyone's weekly routine.

BERNADETTE BEZZINA: The bigger ones are a bit timid.

BERNADETTE BEZZINA: Often the children will slip across to the nursing home where ballet classes
attract an appreciative audience.

DONNA BUTTS: If you visit a senior-only facility or community, what you are likely to hear are
people talk about what hurts today, what medication they're on and who died and you don't see that
when they're involved in intergenerational programming. What they talk about are the children.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Donna Butts is the executive director of Generations United, one of the leading
proponents of intergenerational care in the United States.

Faced with increasing isolation of elderly people back in the 1960s, American authorities set up
formal programs for aged citizens to mix with children in schools, communities and churches.

ELDERLY LADY: Peps you up, you know.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: In Fairfax, Virginia, kindergarten students their share school work with
residents at Sunrise Senior Living every Tuesday.

ELDERLY LADY #2: I'm 90 years old and I don't see children very often and we are very pleased that
they come over and help us.

ELDERLY LADY #3: And they're ready to go all the time. They are terrific.

REPORTER: What do you think about the older people?

CHILD: A little embarrassing sometimes, but sometimes it's great.

LITTLE BOY: It's fun to share the stuff with everybody because they get to hear what you write. I
miss doing those things that I like.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Combining intergenerational care at the same institution, including day care
for children and adults is becoming more popular in the United States with increasing private and
government support.

DONNA BUTTS: With the intergenerational shared sites or shared care, what is really wonderful are
some of the models where they are starting to put senior centres in public schools in some
communities. Mini communities say in Arizona, for example, aren't building any new facility unless
it's a community centre where there is a place for older adults, for children and teenagers after
school so it makes a lot of sense.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: In Tasmania, the fledgling intergenerational scheme has to go through staffing
and security checks before the groups got together. Parents Kylie Baxter and Glen Shackcloth are
delighted with their daughter's experience.

GLEN SHACKCLOTH: It's a part of society that's diminishing, the interaction between children,
especially our senior members, and we feel it's important for our kids to interact and mix with
people of all ages.

JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: And their new friends believe it's also a chance for children to learn a bit
about growing up and the reality of growing old.

BERNADETTE BEZZINA: To realise that that's what happens, you know. That's part of life.

PHYLLIS MORRIS: I think they are a bit too young to realise that.

BERNADETTE BEZZINA: But they are not going to stay little. They are going to get older and they
will start to realise. They've got to make room for everybody.

FAY STRINGER: But it's too late to do anything about it, though.