25 Jul 2018

Intergenerational playgroups: fun for young and old

From Afternoons, 1:30 pm on 25 July 2018

Loneliness is a serious health risk for elderly people.

Now, a young Wairarapa mum is tackling the problem in her own area, bringing children and older people together for intergenerational playgroups at rest homes.

Lucy Adlam first became aware of the epidemic of loneliness amongst the elderly while working for a non-profit organisation in Perth a couple of years ago.

"Some people turn 90 and there's no one there to wish them happy birthday, and that just crushes me."

She set up a playgroup group there – which 300 people now attend – then did the same thing in Carterton when she moved there 18 months ago.

Parents take babies as young as 12 weeks and children up to five to the volunteer-run Wairarapa Intergenerational Playgroups at seven rest homes.

The organisation has just received its first community grant, which Lucy says may go towards movement and music activities.

Last week, local entertainer Jonáš Koukl – who does workshops locally – brought musical instruments along to a playgroup, she says.

"I saw my two year old playing the bongo drums with an elderly man who just absolutely loved it.

Jonáš passed a flute to one woman who'd had a stroke and could no longer speak.

"She got the flute and she played a tune on it. The staff were just amazed … it was like therapy for her."

Sometimes the elderly simply enjoy watching the kids play rather than staying in their rooms, Lucy says.

"I've walked in to visit people thinking that they've passed away because they're just lying there lifeless. Then they open their eyes and see a child. Suddenly they're sitting up, they're singing, they're trying to get up and dance and do funny things, it's so amazing."

Intergenerational playgroups are simple to run and could happen anywhere, Lucy says.

"I just want to more people to hear about it and think 'This is something we could do' because they totally can.

"I just love the feeling of community, we're all connecting."