The success of the Connecting Through Memory program was celebrated in a lovely way last week as preschool children from Bega and Eden joined elderly participants in a party at the Bega Library.
Children and staff from Bandara and Eden Early Learning Centres, where some of the Connecting Through Memory sessions took place, sang, danced and listened to stories with program coordinator Hayley Reynolds, Ross Lowe, "Party" Pete and Wendy Davis and Hilary James, before sharing morning tea and craft activities.
Ms Reynolds, enthusiastic and emotional about the connections being made between the Valley's youngest and oldest residents, used a letter to Santa to highlight what the program meant to her.
"No matter how many iPads, motorbikes or pieces of string you have, it doesn't matter unless you're happy - and that's what this has done. It's made people happy."
The Connecting Through Memory program started in May 2019 and has helped push aside some of the stigma around ageing and memory loss that older community members and their carers face every day.
"Children have an innate respect for older people. They are naturally inclusive in that they show us how to look past any physical or cognitive decline, which is why this program is so important to our community," Ms Reynolds said.
Council's programs and partnerships officer, Scott Baker said the children see participants as grandparent figures who will sing songs, make craft, tell stories and laugh with them.
"Combating isolation, loneliness and depression in people who may be experiencing some memory loss has been a significant benefit coming out of this ground-breaking program," Mr Baker said.
"Our tailored program has boosted the self-esteem of participants by sharing and celebrating their memories and providing opportunities to create positive memories based around meaningful activities with the preschool children."
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Participant Ross Lowe reported receiving a huge boost from the appreciation he received from children for his musical talent despite his initial doubts that he had anything of value to contribute.
After a recent session at Eden Early Learning Centre where he entertained the children with his singing and guitar, Mr Lowe said, "It's really wonderful when people appreciate you and what you do, I think the kids loved it today and so did I - it's good for all of us."
Importantly, the Connecting Through Memory program has been designed in such a way that it can be rolled out to other libraries, early childhood learning centres and councils.
Connecting Through Memory has been such a success and seen so many positive outcomes for older community members, their carers, children and educators, that the library is actively investigating funding sources to see its continuation into 2020.
"Our libraries are committed to forging intergenerational relationships in our communities - look out for us in Bermagui next year," Mr Baker added.