Keeping in touch during COVID hasn’t been easy for everyone, particularly the seniors in our community, as we have all been encouraged to maintain social distancing for the benefit of those most vulnerable and our own wellbeing.
Social distancing, though a major strategy to fight COVID-19, is also a significant cause of loneliness, particularly when seniors may already have been somewhat isolated in the community.
“Social connectedness is vital during this public health emergency and has been a strong focus for the Home Care team since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Kerryn Tutt, General Manager, Home Care, CatholicCare.
In a bid to spread kindness and compassion in our community and build relationships during this challenging time, students and seniors joined forces in an intergenerational project.
The six-week pilot program used innovation and technology to give younger and older generations the opportunity to connect and get to know each other.
Each week students from St Ambrose Catholic Primary School in Concord West joined seniors from St Brigid’s Green Retirement Village for a yarn and catchup via Zoom. Together the sessions helped create memories and shared learning experiences.
CatholicCare’s Home Care Specialist, Catherine Gonzaga, came up with the initial idea. CatholicCare assists older people in their homes on a daily, weekly or ad-hoc basis, helping them to maintain a vital sense of dignity and wellbeing.
Tom*, one of the students involved, said he enjoyed finding out about what school used to be like “back in the day”.
“I really liked it because we really got to connect and share stories about their lives. Obviously, they didn’t have the technology or computers that we have now, so a lot of our conversations were about what life was like at school when they were young, and what books they read and things like that.
“I think it’s great that we now have this technology which makes it so much easier to be in touch with older people,” said Tom*.
Molly* said she connected with Elsa who was “fascinating”.
“Elsa actually grew up in Australia, but her parents were from Italy and she told us a bit about her hobbies and her favourite things to do,”
“We learnt a lot about her and her life. She has eight grandkids and five children and she told us that she loved baking, which we also love and she loves Italian food as well,” said Molly*.
Patricia, who’s on CatholicCare’s Consumer Advisory Group also took part and said there’s much to learn between different generations if you have the motivation.
“I always say to young people ‘take some time to interact with older people. I think you might really find them interesting’,” Patricia said.
“I also think opportunities like this give older people the opportunity to connect and share ideas with younger people which can benefit everyone greatly.”
In 2020, CatholicCare’s Seniors team assisted more than 2,150 older people in the community with a range of services including: personal care and domestic assistance in the home, transport to appointments, nursing care and social support.
*names of students are changed for privacy reasons