With up to 40% of Aged Care residents getting no visitors, last Wednesday, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, spoke at the National Press Club calling for more love and respect for older people, challenging our community to “all ask ourselves: “DO I WANT TO BE ABANDONED IN MY OLDER YEARS? Is this what my elders deserve? Is this how I want to live out my days?”
I felt the same when my work took me into one particularly lonely looking Aged Care facility ( they are not all like that, thanks goodness). I was determined to help build part of a solution to a community wide problem. The STEP (Seniors and Teens Empathy Program) pilot I am running at Bupa Australia Aged Care in Queens park is part of that, and I’m so thrilled to report an incredible start to our second week of visits with teens and residents.
“Interesting, amazing, fun, informative, exciting” were just some of the adjectives teen participants used to describe their first session that involved a “Walk in their Shoes” introduction followed by time with residents.
I was a bit nervous about how the second catch up would go … would the ‘conversation starters’ I provided be enough of a prompt to keep awkward silences at bay? I needn’t have worried … conversation AND laughter flowed. As Ken Wyatt wisely said “ We need to revere the knowledge, wisdom and skills of our Elders in society “
What I witnessed yesterday was that our kids are CRAVING connection with their Elders stories and knowledge … the most consistent piece of feedback from teens in our first session when asked if they were looking forward to coming back the following week was YES because they wanted to continue talking, spending time with and hearing stories from their Elders.
There have been many logistical challenges to get a program like STEP happening, but the concept is quite simple – we need connection… it just takes the right team of people committed to making it happen.
I’m determined to be part of that and hope to build a team to help me. HUGE thanks again goes to Kids Giving Back for helping bring on board the teens we needed to get this started, they have many more opportunities for volunteering in the community on their website.
You can follow along the progress of STEP at Heart and Soul Facebook page and you can hear Ken Wyatt’s plea to champion inclusion and offer our hearts and our hands in love and respect below