The benefits of bringing young and old together at Carlton Learning Precinct

There’s an air of excitement in the Banksia Room at Carlton Learning Precinct. It’s Thursday morning and that means “our old friends are coming”. Every week, residents from Rathdowne Place Aged Care visit the Banksia Room children to bake, draw, sing and share stories as part of the CLP Intergenerational Program.

It’s Sally’s third visit and she describes it as the highlight of her week. “I absolutely adore coming here to spend time with the children,” she says. “They’re just so alive and perfect. This morning, we’re reading stories about feelings, and I feel very happy to be here.”

Educator Nethmi Rajapaksa says the program provides enriching experiences for the children as they learn to connect with and contribute to their local community. “We’re very focused on building relationships within the community, mostly through the primary school, the community centre and the aged-care home,” Nethmi says. “This also helps foster empathy and respect for others.”

Many of the children are starting to develop bonds with the regular visitors from Rathdowne Place. “I like to see my friend Maurice,” Yuna says, while Alaina positions herself next to Dorothea so they can start drawing together. “It’s such a joyful experience,” Dorothea says.

Nethmi says the children are learning so much about the world as their new friends share stories about their own childhoods. Maurice draws a picture for the children of his childhood home in Holland with windmills and tulips, while Dot says she can still recall her own kindergarten in Germany.

“It also opens up opportunities for broader discussions with the children,” Nethmi says. “It encourages them to talk about their relationships with their own grandparents and can lead to deeper conversations about growing old and even death.

“They’re just so curious and want to know about everything. This is such a wonderful experience for nurturing that curiosity.”