Dementia is a huge health issue in Australia but one early learning centre in the Perth suburb of Caversham has taken a proactive approach towards making a difference.
What started as a morning of activities at Nido Early School in Caversham to celebrate Grandparents’ Day has grown into a much wider community initiative with members of the Beechboro Dementia Group now enjoying monthly visits to the school.
The centre’s executive manager, Risa Ristanovich says the Beechboro group responded immediately when the school reached out to the community after the positive feedback from its grandparents’ day activities, and the relationship between the two organisations has gone from strength to strength over the past year.
“The monthly visits are eagerly anticipated by the seniors and the youngsters alike which goes to show just why it is so important to encourage intergenerational relationships, provide opportunities for communities to connect and to expose children to as much of their surroundings as possible,” she said.
“The visits have a positive effect on everyone involved and there are very evident benefits across the board.
“The older generation has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share and the kids get to see a broader picture of the world - but most of all, they all have such fun interacting together. The adults demonstrate a natural care and empathy for the children who in turn, learn to be kind and tolerant of others,” she said.
During the monthly visits, educators, children, club members and their carers participate in a range of hands-on arts and craft activities in various classrooms which range from infant to kindy care. As with all Reggio Emilia inspired schools, the direction of the learning and exploration is directed by the children themselves and the outcomes of the sessions are carefully documented for parents and caregivers to see and enjoy.
“It’s a fantastic way of connecting with the community in our catchment area,” added Ristanovich, “and the hugely positive feedback we get after each visit from everyone involved is just wonderful. Our school community is a multicultural one and many of our families are miles away from their own extended families so this close interaction with members of the older generation is hugely beneficial for both migrant families as well as the wider community.”
“For people with dementia, these regular interactions are a great way of alleviating loneliness, helping them to maintain meaningful relationships and stay socially active and we believe that they are an important contributor to their overall mental health. It was particularly meaningful to have visits during Dementia Awareness Month in September, and we are fully committed to continuing these positive engagements on an ongoing basis.”
In addition to their relationship with the Beechboro Dementia Club, Nido Early School Caversham has developed a partnership with a school in Zambia. The Nido community responded generously to the school’s call for much-needed educational supplies and resources with plans underway to strengthen the relationship through live-streaming of interactions and activities.
For more information, please contact Nido Early School Caversham at 08 9250 5170 or visit nidoearlyschool.com.au.