Construction begins on new intergenerational care facility

Friday, 01 July, 2022

Construction begins on new intergenerational care facility

Sisters and early childhood teachers Anna and Fiona Glumac are setting up an intergenerational care facility in Victoria that will provide interactions between children and elders in residential aged care.

Inspired largely by their much adored, late grandmother, Mary, who spent the last year of her life in residential aged care, the sisters set up The Herd ILC in Mornington — the name pays homage to the respect elephants have for elderly herd members.

“When our beautiful grandma made the transition to residential aged care, it was heartbreaking to see some of her spark fade. She lit up around young children, so a program like this would have been life giving. Our project is for her,” said The Herd co-founder, Anna Glumac.

The Herd Intergenerational Learning Centre is being built under the same roof as the Uniting AgeWell Andrew Kerr Care aged care facility, with financial support received for this project from the Victorian Government, Uniting AgeWell and the ongoing generosity of philanthropic organisations and members of the community.

The centre will care for up to 66 children aged from 6 weeks to 4 years and is set to open its doors early next year.

Aged care residents will be able to visit a lounge space and watch the children play. Young and old will also come together regularly to share scheduled activities, including art, music and storytelling.

Recent research shows intergenerational care can reduce the risk of developing dementia and combat isolation and loneliness in the elderly. Children can also benefit, developing higher levels of empathy and social acceptance.

Herd co-founder Fiona Glumac said she hoped the centre would inspire similar projects, so the model of care became “more of the norm in Australia”.

“Our project is unique because residents will have the opportunity to come to the childcare centre and experience the joy of seeing and hearing the children in play whenever they are feeling lonely.”

Uniting AgeWell Chief Executive Officer Andrew Kinnersly said the centre would bring great benefits.

“There is a large body of research to prove that intergenerational programs can improve the quality of life of residents, while also being of great benefit to younger participants.

“Enabling older people living in residential care to continue to contribute and to engage with their community is extremely important; it’s why we are excited by the opportunities this innovative, shared-roof intergenerational learning centre presents to both young and old.

“As the centre and playground start to take shape, it’s sure to be the topic of daily conversation and interest.”

Rose and Barry Smith are a husband and wife duo who are current residents of Uniting AgeWell Andrew Kerr Care Community. They are both looking forward to participating in the intergenerational activities, saying, “It will bring a sense of community into our home; a great enjoyment that will not only enrich our lives in residential care, but also the children’s.”

They add, “The raw emotion of laughter, smiling and children’s voices and the carry-ons is so special to witness and observe. It brings a kind of normality and comfort to our lives.”

Andrew Knight’s son, two-year-old Walter, is enrolled at The Herd. Andrew is looking forward to Walter embracing a whole new childcare experience, saying, “In addition to the expected early childhood learnings, we hope it will help Walter become a more empathetic and compassionate little person and create core memories that will give him a lifetime of appreciation and respect for our older generation.”

Andrew also added that he likes the opportunity to be able to “give back to our community and help improve the quality of life of the aged care residents by giving them purpose and improving their mood. Kids’ energy is infectious; they give joy, create laughter and motivate us to engage.”

He explained, “We had seen the Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds series on the ABC and loved the concept. We could clearly see it was mutually beneficial for both young and old, so when we heard intergenerational care was coming to Mornington, we both knew we wanted to enrol Walter as soon as we could.

According to Dr Anneke Fitzgerald, Professor Health Management, Griffith University, bringing together older people and children in a shared setting through activities aimed at meeting specific life goals has been proven to be mutually beneficial.

“It has resulted in improved attitudes towards aging and children’s perceptions about older people. It has also improved pro-social behaviour of sharing, helping and cooperation between generations, by increasing social engagement, confidence and resilience in older people.”

Image caption: Fiona 39 (on the left) and Anna 33 (on the right), founders of The Herd.

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