Following the Federal Government announcement, encouraging aged care providers to limit the number of visits to their facility under the national guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19, many facilities have reduced visits by children and school groups, and some volunteer groups have also been stopped.

In a society where more older Australians are already feeling lonely and isolated, the coronavirus-related isolation has further exacerbated the problem. A Griffith University project led by Professor Anneke Fitzgerald from the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation has demonstrated how intergenerational care programs can enhance engagement and create a special bond between the generations which has a positive impact on the sense of well-being among the elderly and improve confidence and communication skills in children.

A new intergenerational learning program designed by Griffith Business School alumnus, Greg Cronan, has taken advantage of video technologies to help a group of elders in an aged-care home in New South Wales bridge physical isolation amid social-distancing measures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The weekly program involves 30 students in Year 6 engaging in video calls with elders for reciprocal learning activities based on the school curriculum.

Professor Fitzgerald, who supervised the project in its research stage, expressed pride on how Cronan is running the current program.

“We are proud to be part of it and hope to see similar results with younger children (age 3-5) connecting with elders in a community setting during this health crisis” as the use of technology to connect older people with children is rolling out in different contexts.”

Currently the team, comprising Professor Anneke Fitzgerald, Dr Katrina Radford (Department of Business Strategy and Innovation), Dr Jennifer Cartmel (Human Services and Social Work), Dr Neil Harris (Public Health), Dr Gaery Barbery (Health Services Management), are preparing a pilot study with their industry partners in Western Australia that extend intergenerational practice to the community setting by connecting younger children in child care with older people in the community via video conference on iPads. This pilot is planned for the middle of the year.

“Now more than ever we need to nurture our connections with others and develop best intergenerational practice for programs such as these as one solution to loneliness and isolation.”

The team will collect baseline data on social isolation, effects of COVID-19, such as hope, resilience, well-being, engagement etc as well as ask questions regarding their anxieties mixing with young children post-pandemic.

Please click here to find out more about this research.