Care of our young and old is increasingly segregated, however these ‘book end’ generations have a lot to offer each other.

Those living in a retirement village or in rest home care may not often be exposed to young children, and if they are, may not be given the time or opportunity to really interact with them.

The positive effects of interactions with children can be significant, especially for elderly and those living with dementia.

Rawhiti Estate understands the importance of these interactions, and the joint initiative between Messy Magpies and the residents at Rawhiti is a wonderful way for both groups to interact in a positive, fun and safe way.

Every fortnight children from the Messy Magpies group gather in the Rawhiti atrium to play and enjoy sensory games and activities. Everyone involved has noticed the positive benefits this has had for the residents and children.

“We have noticed that the sessions with the Messy Magpies group have really brought a lot of joy to the residents that join in. It is truly fun for all ages and it is heart-warming to see the smiles on everyone’s faces.

“It is a chance for residents to bring out their own ‘inner child’ and interact in a carefree and fun way,” says General Manager of Rawhiti Estate, Helen Martelli.

Spending time with children can decrease feelings of social isolation. It also helps the children to learn how to interact and engage with older people, and to play in a gentle way.

International studies on elderly interactions with pre-school age children have noted that those living with dementia had a higher level of positive engagement when interacting with children, and those without dementia demonstrate a higher frequency of smiling and conversation when interacting with children.

Practitioners have also found that despite the cognitive impairments of some aged care patients, their experiences interacting with and caring for children are so ingrained they remain able to interact appropriately and positively.

Young children do not see an aged person in the same way that a middle-aged adult does, and nor do they treat them in the same way. The playful nature of children, combined with the availability and patience that older adults often have, can be the perfect combination to provide enjoyment for both groups.

For more information on the Messy Magpies group please contact Megan Lewis at Rawhiti Estate, megan.lewis@thebegroup.co.nz