Aged care residents and school students on the Gold Coast have come up with an innovative way of sharing memories of one of life’s biggest events – the school formal.
With formal season now in full swing, the topic is dominating the lunch-hour chat. Much like the debutante balls of yesteryear, formals are a rite of passage for school leavers.
For the last three months, Year 12 students at Somerset College on the Gold Coast have met and had lunch with residents of Ozcare’s Ozanam Villa Burleigh Heads – where the key topic of the conversations has been the school formal.
On Wednesday 18 July, as part of this intergenerational luncheon series which has taken place each fortnight on the campus in the Year 12 lunchroom, the students showed residents their formal photos and shared memories of the event.
Ozcare’s Diversional Therapist Michele Roche, who has set up the series, said residents were almost as excited as the students about their formal after sharing with them the stories and memories of their own debutante balls.
“It’s a great way of bringing back memories for the older generation and they get treated like adopted grandparents,” Ms Roche said.
“Even the vision impaired can take part, so it helps them with their feelings of social isolation. It really is proof that you’re never too old to make new friends.”
Ms Roche said at Easter, the Year 12 students presented each of the residents with beautifully wrapped china tea cups and Easter eggs.
“This work is bringing invaluable meaning and purpose to the lives of our residents, leaving them happy, fulfilled and motivated to contribute to activities,” Ms Roche said.
“At the same time we are teaching younger generations respect for the elderly and imparting an appreciation for the wisdom and knowledge of our older generation.
“One of our residents, Jill, is a fortnightly visitor. Jill is an avid reader and seeker of knowledge and she now has ‘Jill's Word Wall’ in their luncheon room. She researches two words to bring and read to the students each fortnight to help develop their vocabulary.
“We are seeing new friendships form between two quite different cultures and a shared respect for each other's traditions and values.
“Ultimately, we are proving that you are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream.”
Somerset College Service Learning Coordinator Brad Walker believes the students have gained huge insights through the wisdom imparted by the residents each fortnight, mostly learning the lesson of listening.
“They’re seniors helping seniors and I think they have both got something to offer each other,” Mr Walker said.
“I try to tell the students how important it is to just listen – this is a way of listening and connecting on an ongoing basis and it strikes a chord with a lot of the kids.
“Some of our kids don’t have regular contact with grandparents and to sit with someone who is older and wiser and lived life hopefully pulls them away from their devices and clicks and just may brighten the day of another person.”
Ozcare is involved in similar initiatives across the Gold Coast at childcare centres, kindergartens and primary schools. The activities are in place with Gumleaf Gully childcare, Aussie Kids Kindergarten, Marymount Catholic Primary School and Somerset College.