April 16, 2024

Bridging generations: our Intergenerational Program

For some weeks now, a heartwarming story of human connection and intergenerational harmony has been unfolding at our Clifton Respite Cottage in Preston.

A group of seniors from the Vietnamese Social Support Group with four students from Sacred Heart Primary School.

Spectrum’s Intergenerational Program brings together two seemingly disparate groups: seniors from our Vietnamese Social Support Group and Year 6 students from Sacred Heart Primary School. What has emerged is nothing short of magical—social support group sessions that transcend generational boundaries and foster deep bonds of friendship and learning.

Inspired by the Netflix reality series Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds that captured the transformative power of intergenerational interactions, Spectrum’s initiative takes things one step further by adding the dimension of cultural difference. Through shared experiences and mutual respect, our unlikely companions have embarked on a journey of discovery, each enriching the other’s life as a testament to the enduring value of human connection.

The Year 6 students bring with them boundless energy, infectious enthusiasm, and a fresh perspective that invigorates the group. Together, they have engaged in a range of activities, from spirited storytelling and harmonious renditions of traditional songs to friendly matches of bowls and ping pong. Laughter rings through the air as bonds are forged, transcending age and cultural differences.

Collage of photos showing students interacting with seniors at our Intergenerational Project.

Today, the students joined the seniors in outdoor exercise, group singing and African drumming. They also shared a lunch – a delicious seafood congee prepared by our amazing cook, Van. During lunch, they shared their favourite parts of the program so far.

“I like that we get to do exercise and to help older people sustain their life and to make sure that they don’t feel old age, and they feel young again,” said Fortunato. His passionate singing earlier certainly made everyone smile.

“My favourite part is playing with people not my age and experiencing their daily life … and also the food,” said Yani , while Jacob “liked meeting all the new people and their bright personalities and  having little chats with people.”

At the heart of our four-week program lies a simple yet profound goal: to bridge the gap between generations and create a space where meaningful interactions can flourish. For many of our elderly clients, the sessions offer a precious opportunity to pass on their wealth of knowledge and traditional skills to a younger audience eager to learn. During the first session, they shared the art of making traditional Vietnamese spring rolls.

But the exchange is far from one-sided. Next week, roles will be reversed when the children will become the teachers. Armed with their laptops, they will guide their elderly counterparts through the intricacies of technology, empowering them with newfound skills and confidence, and bridging the digital divide.

“The students have gotten just as much from this program as the seniors,” said Mark Tierney, Principal at Sacred Heart Primary School. “We are keen to bring another group of students to share these experiences at the next program.”

Through this intergenerational exchange, both young and old discover a sense of purpose, belonging, and renewed vitality. In a world often marked by division and discord, Spectrum’s program serves as a reminder that when we come together with open hearts and minds, we can transcend barriers and build bridges of understanding and compassion.