Thank you to Head of Senior School, Anthony Dennehy, and Head of Well Being, Margaret Borger and the team from International Grammar School for their support in trialling the Seniors and Teens Empathy Program. Special thanks to the amazing students and residents involved for their kindness, good humour, and thoughtfulness throughout the program. This article appeared on the International Grammar School website on 12 September, 2019
It was an emotional farewell for young and old at the Opal Annandale Aged Care centre during the final visit of our Year 10 students.
Students Jed, Rory, Natascha and Annie were part of an intergenerational Seniors and Teens Empathy Program (STEP), a successful two-month trial centered around story sharing.
Sam Heron, of Heart and Soul Story, developed the STEP program and said she hoped the program would help foster empathy, promote a sense of community and increase resilience and wellbeing.
“Thanks to IGS school and parents for their willingness to have their teens as part of this first program for IGS and Opal and
essentially believe in the importance of the community connection Heart and Soul Story is trying to build,” she said.
Students were buddied up with residents and enjoyed learning about their lives, hearing about their childhoods and families, and about their biggest achievements.
Rory said he was amazed that Opal resident Betty had travelled all the way to Australia on a ship, just 12 days after getting married.
During their last visit to the Aged Centre in September, it was clear the students had developed a deep connection with the residents.
The students presented their buddies with small gifts, photos and cards as keepsakes.
Students’ parents were invited to be part of the final visit.
Jed’s mother, Lara, said she was really pleased when IGS staff asked if he would be a part of the program.
“He would come home and tell us about his experience and the stories, we could see what a special experience it was,” Lara said.
“He said it was the highlight of his week coming here.
“We knew it would be a really great program but we’re just really quite touched and amazed at what everyone got out of it and being here today and seeing the connection that they have, it’s quite emotional.”
Jed has since made a promise to keep visiting the residents at Opal.
Natascha’s mother Cathy said she couldn’t be prouder seeing Tash give back and connecting with the community.
“To be able to learn from the experience and people that have lived their lives,” she said.
“To hear what she and all the students have learned, it’s just so incredible. It’s a real two-way impact.”