It was during the lock down periods of the COVID-19 pandemic that leaders of our Aged Care Services and Families and Young People Services saw an opportunity to develop connections between children and young people in out-of-home care and aged care residents.
“In December 2021 it began with young people in out-of-home care making gifts and cards of encouragement for the aged care residents here at Mercy Community. This connection was well received by the aged care residents and the children and young people enjoyed the experience of creating and giving joy to others,” says Janet Rhodes, General Manager of Mercy Community Aged Care Services.
School holiday activities for young and old
When lock downs eased, leaders in these two core service areas recognised the potential to further strengthen the budding connections by inviting children and young people in residential care to visit aged care residents in Nudgee. Funded by Mercy Partners through the Nudgee Trust, the program resulted in 3 days of activities during the September 2022 school holidays in the form of a multicultural day, gardening, and exercises with the aged care residents.
Aged care residents loved seeing the children and young people and enjoyed interacting with them. This was particularly beneficial for those within the aged care residence who did not have regular visitors or extended families.
“Likewise, the children and young people were able to develop their social skills, empathy, understanding and respect for older people in a fun supportive environment. Their interaction with older generations provides opportunities to increase their social connections, promote a sense of belonging and community,” said Kym Langill, General Manager for our Families and Young People Services.
Pictured above (top to bottom, left to right): Kym Langill, General Manager – Families & Young People; Janet Rhodes, General Manager – Aged Care Services; Cheryl Burgoyne, Regional Director for Foster Care; MP Leanne Linard, member for Nudgee and Minister for Children and Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs; Phyllis Spillman, aged care resident and; Emma Babao, Facility Manager for Nudgee Aged Care Services.
Phyllis gives a tour of her art collection and MP Leanne Linard chooses one to take home.
Intergenerational connectedness improves outcomes for young people
Statistically, children and young people in out-of-home care experience decreased life outcomes, such as poorer educational and professional outcomes, poorer physical and mental health, increased rates of substance misuse and involvement in the criminal justice system. That’s why intergenerational connectedness is so important. It’s also why Mercy Community is now hoping to improve outcomes for these young people by extending this program to provide vocational and work experience opportunities for young people aged 15 years and above.
“Many young people in statutory care encounter multiple barriers to engagement in vocational and work experience programs, including exclusion from or lack of engagement in formal education, increased incidence of poor mental health, poor self-esteem, difficulties with self-regulation and engaging positively with authority figures,” says Kym.
Extending this program to provide vocational and work experience opportunities
A range of placement options from direct care, hotel services and administration placements support this approach. Unlike other vocational and work experience programs, young people who are part of this program can be accompanied by a familiar support worker whilst they build confidence to engage independently. Our long-term goal is to connect young people with learning institutions that can offer Certificate II, III or IV training as a pathway to future employment.
In October 2022, MP Leanne Linard, member for Nudgee and Minister for Children and Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs, came out to our Aged Care Residence in Nudgee. She met with some of the leaders from the project and heard testimonials from Phyllis Spillman, an aged care resident who took part in the Intergenerational Program.
“We miss having the children and young people in the centre and look forward to having them here again in the next school holidays,” said Phyllis who is well known by the children because of her many paintings and drawings.
Phyllis and Minister Linard agreed that this program needs to forge ahead – both for the children and young people in out-of-home care and for the aged care residents. Just as Phyllis has done with some of the children in the program, she allowed the Minister to select one of her paintings to take back home.
“Subject to funding, Mercy Community is considering extending this program to the New Families Program so that we can connect new mothers and their babies to the aged care residents. This is being considered not just for the social benefits to new families and aged care residents, but also to explore potential career pathway for mothers into residential aged care roles,” concluded Kym Langill.
See the gifts and cards from young people, and read about the joy these brought to aged care residents.
To maintain the privacy of the young people we support, stock photography has been used in the feature image.