Intergenerational Programs


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The Seniors & Teens Empathy Program
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Anthony Dennehy, Head of Senior School , reflecting on the high schools journey with STEP since 2019



SUPPORTED BY:  Awesome Foundation Sydney, Layne Beachley Foundation, SEFA/ Macquarie Foundation Kickstarter 2018  FINALIST: AMP Tomorrow Fund 2018, Westfield Local Hero 2019,   2021 OPAL HEALTHCARE SOCIAL IMPACT REPORT (P17-18)



Video thanks to students from UTS Community Shopfront. 


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“Somehow we have to get older people back close to growing children if we are to restore a sense of community, knowledge of the past, and a sense of the future.” ~ Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist

 We are currently facing mental health epidemics at opposite ends of life;  an epidemic of increasing loneliness and depression in our elderly in aged care homes and an increasing epidemic of mental health issues in our youth. Fostering intergenerational empathy and connection has been shown to improve mental health and well-being of both groups.

Heart and Soul Story has been designing & facilitating intergenerational connection programs & initiatives since 2017.  These connect youth with their Elders through the SHARING OF STORIES and promote better mental health and well being in both groups. The programs aims include fostering empathy, regaining a sense of community, increasing resilience and well-being and helping encourage inspired & soulful lives across generations. Listen to Samantha Heron talk to Sarah Macdonald on ABC Evenings about intergenerational connection, sharing of stories, rites of passage and more.

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STEP ( Senior and Teens Empathy Program ™ ) is currently running as a VIRTUAL PROGRAM  with International Grammar School partnered with Opal Healthcare. Read about the program in Opal’s  2021 OPAL HEALTHCARE SOCIAL IMPACT REPORT (P17-18)  STEP is also from February 2023 being run an in person program as part of a partnership between Sylvania High School and Hammond Aged Care Miranda with the support of Sutherland Shire Council. 


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Intergenerational connection & program implementation seminars

Heart and Soul Story also delivers school and aged care education seminars and programs about the importance of Intergenerational Connection and Bringing our Community Back Together, and the reciprocal benefits for both our elders and teens.  These can be  delivered both face to face and via Zoom.

Founder Samantha Heron also works with government, schools and aged care organisations on education around best practice consideration the complexities, challenges and opportunities in program implementation, and factors to consider when designing their own intergenerational programs and initiatives. She sits on the Advisory Committee for the recently formed Australian Institute for Intergenerational Practice ( AIIP)

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“Samantha Heron is one of the rising stars of the social entrepreneur movement. Her social enterprise Heart & Soul Story has already broken new ground with the highly original  STEP (Seniors and Teens Empathy Program), weaving together new strands of the social fabric by putting older and younger members of the community in touch with each other. Unlike many people with good intentions, Sam is tackling the challenge of social fragmentation on the ground, with practical strategies for rebuilding local neighbourhoods and communities.”

Hugh Mackay AO, Social Researcher, Psychologist, Best Selling Author, Founder IPSOS Mackay Report, delivered the Australia Day Address on 23 January 2019.

The Seniors & Teens Empathy Program™  is mentioned in Hugh’s latest book ‘The Kindness Revolution’ 

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To read about the Virtual program with Opal and International Grammar please click here or listen to the perspective of a student and teacher below


To read about the program that Heart & Soul Story ran for three years with Youth off the Streets click here

Listen to the Radio interview with 2 SER The Wire about Heart and Soul Story winning the pitch for the 2018 Birthday Mega Grant from the Awesome Foundation Sydney for the Senior and Teens Empathy Program™  that ran with students from Youth off the Streets for almost 3 years.

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STEP …. part of  our sustainable future

Heart and Soul Story’s Senior & Teens Empathy Program™ and educational seminars on the benefits of intergenerational connection are working towards impacting UN Sustainable Development Goal 3

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The wisdom, experience, energy and ideals of the old and the young are vital to realising the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres  “Ageing populations must work with younger populations to foster successful and reciprocal intergenerational relations and partnerships, which will lie at the core of every well-integrated society.”

STEP…. in action


A modern day rite of passage is achieved when the community create experiences for youth which are perceived to be transformative and, in fact, offer them increased status within the community and facilitate their healthy transition through adolescence” (Blumenkrantz, 1996)

The Seniors & Teens Empathy Program ™ (STEP) was designed using a Rites of Passage framework – you can learn more about this here…/recognising-the-critical-i…/

Who of us in our digitalized and remote lives has not wondered about our disappearing sense of connectedness — face to face, person to person and within a tribe? The more we find ourselves hitting “send,” “reply,” and “post,” the less connected we often feel and become … there is a growing longing to return to a sense of real community ” (

If you are interested to learn more about a Virtual or face to face  program for your school or aged care, please please follow along on instagram @heartandsoulstory_sam or

Watch Teen participants Immy and Amy talk about their experience during STEP


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“The impact of the STEP program has been extremely positive and eye opening here for our residents at Annandale Grove. The beauty of intergenerational activities and communication is something that both our residents and the students greatly benefit from. As a lifestyle coordinator and working with Sam in the past 4 months I have definitely seen the amount that our residents learn from the students. As we live in a world of different cultures and advances in technology it is evident that there is no age limit to learning new things. I know that our residents have definitely learnt new things and have been intrigued by the different cultures and interests that the students share with our residents. I have no doubt that the students have seen and learnt beneficial information also and have met some extraordinary residents whilst being on the STEP journey.

Thank you Sam for bringing this fantastic program to our home and we can’t wait to continue it with you, despite the COVID restrictions we will always find a way” 

Princess Montesclaros, Lifestyle Coordinator, Opal Healthcare

Samantha was one of 70 finalists in the 2018 AMP Tomorrow Fund, succeeding to the last stage of the assessment process. The fact that Samantha made it this far in a very competitive field of 1,900 applicants speaks volumes of her commitment and talent.

The AMP Foundation wishes her the very best of luck with Heart & Soul Story.”

Emma Turnbull | Senior Manager | AMP Foundation

“Over the last two years I have been witness to Sam developing Heart and Soul Story, I have seen that she acts with courage over comfort, and has the determination that I believe will see her stop at nothing to collaborate with other organsations until she progresses her pilot into a successful program of significant impact for our community. We look forward to collaborating again in 2019 and beyond.”

Ruth Toffler Riesel | Founder | Kids Giving Back