What is Aria Gardens trying to achieve?
As a residential care provider for the aged, Aria Gardens has become increasingly aware of the real risk of the older generations becoming isolated. This is particularly so as we become more technologically advanced, the traditional values associated with core family units dissipate, and our society becomes more disparate.
Equally, the younger generation is also at risk of not having the positive influence that a grandparent or much older person can bring to help shape their maturing into good citizens within society.
Aria Gardens believes that empathy, understanding and acceptance through education and meaningful interaction is the key to bridging the intergenerational gap between these poles. It also believes that both groups can benefit significantly, on numerous levels, from the knowledge and experiences of the other group.
Aria Gardens set out to stop the intergenerational divide becoming a chasm. It believed it could do this by exposing the older generation to the exuberance and pure enthusiasm of technologically advanced pre-teens, and by raising, among children, awareness and understanding of the salient issues that can affect the elderly through experiential learning, education and positive re-enforcement.
What has Aria Gardens done?
Aria Gardens approached Albany Primary School with the idea of an "Adopt a Grandparent / Befriend a Child Scheme”. Running as a six month pilot, Aria Gardens and Albany Primary School agreed that a class of approximately twenty children, aged around 9 and 10, would be asked if they would like to participate in this innovative venture. At the same time, the idea was raised with residents in our rest home and hospital areas.
Consent for participation in the scheme was obtained from all the residents and from the children’s parents. Pre-launch education was conducted with the children, focusing on the aging process, the life cycle and the basic principles of the scheme.
Meanwhile, Aria Gardens’ Activities Department kept the residents who had expressed a wish to participate, informed as to how the scheme was progressing. Aria Gardens made sure it did not exclude residents with some mild cognitive impairment, sensory difficulties or physical disabilities.
Aria Gardens held the first "Adopt a Grandparent / Befriend a Child" get together on 22 August 2013. Prior to the initial meeting, both residents and children made small gifts to present to their allocated partner. At the first meeting, the gifts were exchanged and a presentation made introducing the children to their adopted grandparents.
Following the launch, the children were informally interviewed by teaching staff and asked to reflect on their experiences for the day. The feedback was very positive and documented in a newsletter sent out to parents.
The next stage of the venture was to start increasing awareness of physical or sensory disabilities that can affect the elderly. Enlisting the help of Massey Universities Speech and Language Therapy Department, Aria Gardens conducted a successful education session at Albany Primary School. The session focused on how to communicate effectively with people who have hearing or sight loss, mild cognitive impairment or some other disability. The children, always receptive to new things were eager to put their new found skills to use.
Further sessions are booked, providing stimulating education and relationship-building activities. These include quizzes, craft sessions and a party to mark the end of the pilot.
Aria Gardens wants to concentrate on continuing education for the children, particularly about communication and relationship building. It also plans to facilitate education sessions for our residents, run by the children, on modern technology such as computers, the internet and the facilities' Wii console.
Where to from here?
The pilot scheme is due to run until January 2014. Aria Gardens will then seek feedback from residents, children, parents and teaching staff.
The children are currently being asked to write a one page essay on what they have learnt from the experience. All indications point to the scheme being a resounding success, with the children already expressing a desire to continue visiting their buddied partner after the pilot has concluded. Aria Gardens is planning to introduce the scheme as a twice yearly event, developing the scheme’s content to ensure it maximises the benefits for both sets of participants.