Home Aged Care Providers New Research Mainlining Intergenerational Care

New Research Mainlining Intergenerational Care

Senior lady and little girl do craft at a table
Two generations play during Griffith University's Intergenerational Learning Program.

A new study by Griffith University is paving the way for widespread industry adoption of intergenerational care in Australia.

The study’s two-year Intergenerational Care Project evaluated the feasibility of two intergenerational care models between 2017 and 2019. The study found that both models of care were cost-effective and highly beneficial to participants, with significant consumer demand for the service.

Money Matters in Intergenerational Care

Over the last few years intergenerational playgroups have been cropping up across Australia. Last September the ABC’s ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’ broadcast the benefits of interaction between the young and old. Now it’s important to understand intergenerational care from a business point of view, according to the Griffith study’s Project Manager Xanthe Golenko.

“There was evidence to show that there’s a lot of benefits for the older people and the children, but there wasn’t a lot of research in what type of programs are most effective,” Ms Golenko said. “What are the implications for the workforce? What are the cost benefits?”

Little girl plays doctor with older woman.
Participants play doctor at another Intergenerational Learning session.

Two Models of Intergenerational Learning

To find out, the team identified two models of care that would be most feasible in Australia. In the ‘co-location model’, aged care and childcare centres were located on the same premises. The ‘visitation model’ involved one group travelling to the other.

For both models of care, older people and children met for an hour a week over 16 weeks for an Intergenerational Learning Program. Xanthe said the research team designed the program to build strong relationships, with high levels of interaction between participants. The activities suited people of varying mobility and cognitive function.

“When you’ve got that one-on-one interaction, it builds those really strong bonds between people, and that’s when you get the most benefits.”

“So for the older people, the sense of achievement, the sense of purpose, sense of belonging, are really important. And that social engagement and social connection with other people is really critical in actually delaying cognitive decline.”

“And then from the child’s perspective, you can see the increase in confidence, communication ability, building positive attitudes towards older people and ageing. And you can see them asking questions. You know, they have no filters!”

Which Intergenerational Model is Better?

As well as confirming the social benefits of intergenerational care, the study found both models of care to be cost-effective options for the Australian aged care industry.

The co-location model was the most efficient as participants did not need to travel to sessions. This reduced the cost of transport and lowered staff ratios. On the other hand, the upfront investment of building a co-location centre might make the visitation model more feasible for some care providers.

Ms Golenko said that for both models “there is a willingness to pay from both the older people and the children, and people really want to see these types of programs become available”.

What now?

The research team are taking steps to promote industry integration of intergenerational care programs.

  • Website Resources: The study is summarised on the team’s new website. The website also provides industry toolkits and guidance to implement intergenerational care programs.
  • Research: Ms Golenke says more research is needed to adapt intergenerational care to different contexts. For example, residential care and culturally diverse communities.
  • Workforce: The team advise an intergenerational practice qualification for aged care and childcare workers. This would provide the inter-professional knowledge to work across the aged care and childcare sectors.
  • Conferences and the public: The team are sharing their findings at aged care industry conferences and raising public awareness through social media. Funding and awareness are key to normalising intergenerational care in Australia.

The study has already secured funding for Australia’s first co-location facility in Dubbo.

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