An intergenerational play group
Facebook | ABC Australia

Intergenerational Playgroups Let Nursing Home Residents Play With Kids, Benefiting Both

At both extremes of age — when we're young and when we're old — we depend on care from our fellow humans.

A group in Australia has united these two groups with a fresh idea: creating an intergenerational playgroup at a nursing home, so the young and old can interact with each other, and it's been benefiting both groups.

It helps elderly nursing home residents feel a sense of kinship.

An intergenerational play group
Facebook | ABC Australia

Many nursing home residents feel isolated and alone. Scheduled activities and kinship with other residents can help them feel more active and fulfilled.

Taking this idea and running with it, an intergenerational playgroup brings toddlers to the nursing home every week.

Chandani Ramasundara came up with the idea.

The founder of an intergenerational playgroup
Facebook | ABC Australia

Ramasundara says she came up with the idea after she moved to Australia from Sri Lanka 10 years ago.

"People [in Australia] really loved their independent living, whereas in Sri Lanka we grew up in a multigenerational family environment," she said. "So I thought these intergenerational playgroups would be a great idea to ease their isolation, get together, interact together and play together."

Parents bring toddlers to the nursing home every Monday.

An intergenerational playgroup
youtube | ABC TV & iview

The meetings help not just the elderly residents, but also the kids. Ramasundara says she hopes the group setting shows kids what it's like to deal with new people, and how to respect the elderly.

The idea has really caught on.

What started as a humble idea has struck a chord with Australians. Indeed, the playgroup has spurred a documentary series all about the youngsters and their interactions with the elderly residents. It was even renewed for a second season.

The program has expanded.

Map showing locations of playgroups in Tasmania
Playgroup Tasmania | Google

Ramasundara's original playgroup is still going strong, but it's no longer the only affiliated playgroup. The map above shows how the program has expanded to cover locations all across the island of Tasmania. It hasn't hit mainland Australia yet, but it can only be a matter of time.

The pandemic impacted things, but not much.

Elderly woman on a video call
Facebook | ABC Australia

While the pandemic brought social distancing and increased lockdown measures, playgroup participants were able to continue their meetings via video calls. Now that things have been opening back up, the playgroups are once again going strong.

It would be great to see this idea catch on elsewhere.

An intergenerational play group
Facebook | ABC Australia

It's truly a win-win, as parents can introduce their kids to different people while giving elderly retirees a social outlet.

Be sure to share your thoughts on intergenerational playgroups in the comments!

h/t: ABC Australia on Facebook and Playgroup Tasmania