The Herd ILC reflects on 12 months of joy and connection
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The Herd ILC reflects on 12 months of joy and connection

by Freya Lucas

January 23, 2024

Australia’s first shared-roof intergenerational learning centre is celebrating its first year of operation, reflecting on the joy which both children and seniors have experienced from being together. 


The Herd Intergenerational Learning Centre (The Herd ILC) and Uniting AgeWell Andrew Kerr Care Community in Mornington form a unique community, which has had an ‘overwhelmingly positive’ impact on both the children and residents who are part of the program.


Founded by sisters and early childhood teachers, Anna and Fiona Glumac, and developed in partnership with Uniting AgeWell, The Herd ILC was inspired by the Glumac sisters’ experiences with their grandmother, Mary, who spent her last year in residential aged care.


The name of the service pays tribute to the respect that elephants have for their elderly herd members, and sits at the heart of the ethos of the provider, which is to create meaningful connections between children and seniors. 


“When our beautiful grandma made the transition to residential aged care, it was heartbreaking to see some of her spark fade. She lit up around young children, so a program like this would have been life-giving. Our project is for her,” co-founder Anna Gulmac explained. 


Children attending the centre and Andrew Kerr Care residents regularly come together to enjoy activities such as art, music, lunch, storytelling, or just visiting. Opportunities for residents to volunteer at the centre are also part of the mix, as well as spontaneous interactions.


The Herd currently has 135 children enrolled at the centre, with year long waitlists for some rooms as parents in the community, many of whom are disconnected from their own elders, recognise the value the program provides. 


Educators and leaders at both The Herd and Uniting AgeWell have noticed a number of positive benefits from the unique program including: 


  • Acceptance – The diversity in the group of ‘grandfriends’ (as the residents are affectionately called by the children), with varying levels of physical and cognitive capability, has been embraced by the children. 


  • Joy and transformation – Many residents have expressed how the program brings them immense joy and gives their lives new meaning. Families of residents have witnessed positive transformations in their older loved ones.


  • Regulating and soothing – The program has been particularly beneficial for children with neurodiversity, promoting calmness and stability. Unlikely friendships have blossomed.


  • Compassion and connection – The empathy and compassion shown by the children have touched the hearts of residents, even those who aren’t typically responsive. The love between generations is mutual and genuine.


  • Sense of value – Grandfriends have the opportunity to share their life experiences and skills, such as teaching children how to play games, fostering a sense of value and purpose.


  • Shared worlds – Children eagerly share their worlds with their grandfriends, resulting in spontaneous visits and heart-warming moments of connection.


“The last 12 months have been a journey of profound connections and meaningful experiences. The impact of The Herd on the children and their grandfriends has exceeded our expectations, and we are deeply grateful for the support we’ve received from the community, Uniting AgeWell, and the Victorian Government.” Anna said.


Marion and Max


The special bond between 79 year old Marion, who has cognitive impairment, and four year old Max is just one example of the special connections the program facilitates. 


“Much of Marion’s communication is through her body language. Knowing the nuances of Marion’s body language and the way she communicates, it’s very clear she feels comfortable with Max and enjoys their relationship,” Andrew Kerr Care Lifestyle Coordinator Kelina Tokunai explained. 


“She’s very affectionate towards him and always embraces him with a big hug.”


Max and Marion met on the first day The Herd opened, and formed an instant bond, co-founder Fiona Glumac explained. 


“When Marion found out that Max loves music and singing she sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to him, and Max immediately thought she was magnificent.


“In my observations, Marion responds warmly to Max. The way they speak to each other is their own language. She has much affection towards him, and he seems very comfortable. Often he will reciprocate. He will sit with her in concerts and they will watch the show together and at intervals share a conversation and a few giggles. The bond they are forming is unprovoked and nurturing. It is very heart-warming to watch this unfold. It’s like they have known each other for years,” Fiona said. 


“Max and Marion mostly like to just enjoy the presence of each other without needing to be doing anything in particular. They enjoy conversations with one another. Max likes to make things for Marion. He’s made a certificate for her and made a steering wheel for her wheelchair using a paper plate and pipe cleaners,” she added.


For Max’s mother, the relationship is equally cherished. 


“Max, is a gentle and caring 4-year-old with Autism and ADHD,” she explained. 


“Max adores Marion, often talking about her, and his sister Nellie also loves her. As Max prepares to finish at The Herd to attend school, he expresses sadness at the thought of not seeing Marion. The special bond with Marion holds significance for Max, serving as a comforting anchor on days when he struggles to separate from me.”


To learn more about The Herd, please visit the website here

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