Altona MP Jill Hennessy recently visited Estia Health's aged care home in Altona Meadows to see Altona Kindergarten's wonderful partnership with the care home in action. The visit included lots of singing and dancing and a special appearance from some furry friends. We sat down with the kinder's lead educator, Sue, to learn more about the partnership.
How did your partnership with the home start?
It started last year when we had a new teacher who wanted to have a bit of a project. I had been interested, as had the other girls, in meeting up with a nursing home and making a partnership. So Amy took it on board, and we contacted Estia Health Altona Meadows, and here we are. It's grown from there.
How does the partnership work?
We generally come here once a month, but we are looking at actually spending a whole session here. We've been lucky enough to get a grant from the City of Hobsons Bay, which has given us some money towards the puzzles and scarves we bring. The grant has also helped pay for the farm animals today.
What do the children do when they're here?
The children sit at the tables with puzzles and playdough. They also love the colouring in, and we have ball sets sometimes as well. We do singing and dancing, and we usually finish up with a story. Next time around we are doing some gardening,
What are the children learning from the experience?
They're learning to respect others; they're understanding. Cause some of them don't get the chance to meet older people, because a lot of their parents are young and their grandparents too, so it's a good chance for them to meet older people and to accept the differences in cognitive ability.
How have the residents reacted?
A couple of visits ago one lady was in tears; she was just so overwhelmed with joy by the children that she cried. The staff said it was the first time they had seen this particular resident open up and talk. And she'd only been at the centre a few weeks, but she started to talk to the children. One of the gentlemen, he's got such a special place in their hearts now, but when we first came, he didn't come out of his room. Now he loves interacting with the children and singing and dancing with them.
What feedback have you received from families?
They've enjoyed it. They always say their children go home and chat chat chat about their experience and who they've met after the events.
What would you say to other early learning centres considering a partnership with an aged care home?
It is so important to the residents, to the children, and to us. We've developed a wonderful relationship with the staff here; there's lots of networking, it's just great.