OUR SENIORS | When age is just no barrier

"Am I having fun? Of course I'm having fun!"

Michael May is sitting on the floor surrounded by other aged-care residents, children and their mums, toys, books, games, balloons and there's lots of noise and he can't wipe the smile off his face.

He's one of the happy participants in a new intergenerational playgroup that meets fortnightly at HammondCare's Bond House at Hammondville, just like in the ABC's Old People's Home for 4-Year-Olds.

The Hammondville project began when HammondCare volunteer Jess Warner sat with residents massaging their hands, as she does on Tuesdays. With a background in early-childhood education, and two young children of her own, Jess saw a chance for interaction between children and older people that would bring joy and connection.

Hammondville's volunteer co-ordinator Pam Schofield threw in her support. As Jess sought participants to launch in September, a connection formed with Holsworthy Community Group that supports Defence families.

Jess said for Defence families it was a form extended family when their own grandparents and great-grandparents were often far away.

As one of the first intergenerational playgroups in the South-West, it also attracts other local families looking to enjoy the company of the older generation.

"On our second week we had a resident, May, who's 100 years and four months old, and a little girl Maeva who's just four months so we spanned 100 years!" Jess said.

"We choose activities the aged-care residents can do while sitting, while others love to just watch, or play with the children, or nurse them in some cases. When I'm here on other days volunteering, one resident always asks me 'Is it playgroup tomorrow?'

"It's beautiful to have more connection for both families and residents, and to bridge the gap between the ages. We have so much to learn from each other."

Stephanie Hodges and son Tyler are enjoying the playgroup. Describing themselves as from a military family Stephanie said Tyler missed his grandparents who lived several hours away and attending the playgroup was great for them both.

Jessica Thomas, of Hammondville, brings son Jaxon and said with a background in aged care, she could see how beneficial it was for all the generations in the group. "It's great to see the older residents playing with the kids, you can see how they perk up when they see them."

Volunteer co-ordinator Pam Schofield said: "I love the way the way the residents, the children and mums interact in the games, songs and reading, with some residents getting down on the floor to play! The kids are so open, wrapping their arms around the residents and gravitating to them."

HammondCare has more than 1000 volunteers supporting care across its services.

Volunteers business partner Debbie Webster said the organisation had a long history of intergenerational activities with local preschools, Hammondville Public School and high school groups being regular visitors to aged- and dementia-care homes at Hammondville.

Peter Hallett works for HammondCare

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