UOW hosts intergenerational playdates to benefit young and old
For the first time, the University of Wollongong (UOW) is hosting a series of intergenerational playdates in a purpose-designed early learning space, bringing together children and older people to connect in a fun, relaxed environment, aiming to expand on an increasing body of evidence demonstrating the value of intergenerational play based experiences for both young children and the elderly.
Funded by UOW’s Global Challenges, in partnership with Playgroup NSW and IRT, members from UOW Early Start’s Play, Pedagogy and Curriculum Research Group, supported by expert facilitators, the Intergenerational Playgroup will enable children aged from birth to six years old to join with grandparents/older friends in a range of activities, including music, stories, art, and movement.
Professor Lisa Kervin, who leads the Play, Pedagogy and Curriculum Research Group for Early Start and this research project, said being able to observe different generations engaging in play together was a great opportunity and privilege for researchers at UOW.
“While we know that intergenerational contact is beneficial, we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding what the benefits of intergenerational play actually are for all participants. We are really excited to observe how play in a setting designed for young children might differ to the kinds of intergenerational play we see occurring in aged care or other community settings,” Professor Kervin said.
Children’s play changes when it is intergenerational, a UOW spokesperson noted, and research shows children display higher levels of language and problem-solving skills when they have lots of contact with adults.
The research group have observed a number of different Intergenerational groups and have identified features that appear to offer the most benefits. To explore this further, the expert services of early childhood, art therapy and movement facilitators has been sought.
When it comes to supporting older adults, research also shows play is especially good as it promotes relaxation, reduces stress and helps to maintain cognitive skills such as memory and problem solving. Active play also helps to increase muscle tone, co-ordination and reaction time.
This is the second of three Intergenerational Playgroups being held between now and November, in collaboration with Playgroup NSW.
Nadene Lee, CEO of Playgroup NSW, said the collaboration with Early Start made the experience truly unique for participants and researchers.
“We have numerous intergenerational playgroups operating across the state, but the opportunity to facilitate a group in a purpose-built early learning space is valuable and really exciting for us,” Ms Lee said.
Early Start’s Playful Learning Space has been purpose built to encourage play in young children and the play dates mark the first time the space has been used to encourage intergenerational play.