Evaluating the impact of Intergenerational Playgroups in residential aged care
Funding: Liveable Communities Grant (Department of Aging, NSW Government)
Duration: January 2017 – January 2018
Playgroups are informal sessions where mums, dads, grandparents, caregivers, children and babies can meet together in a relaxed environment to promote fun, learning and friendship. Intergenerational playgroups, a relatively newer form of playgroup, have been designed with the additional aim of promoting intergenerational social interaction, learning and social inclusion. They are usually attended by three generations (elders, parents and children), and have been found to promote increases in happiness, dignity and self-esteem for older participants, as well as more active participation and sense of social connectedness in the community.
The key steps to successful implementation of a community led model within residential aged care environments are not well understood. The aim of the project was to develop and a test a best practice model for community led Intergenerational Playgroups (IPGs) within aged care settings, with Playgroup NSW, and three residential aged care services (two residential and one community centre).
What we did
A model for community led IPGs was developed, informed by Playgroup NSW’s community led models for parents and preschool aged children, and a literature review regarding intergenerational playgroups models and evaluation strategies. Existing playgroups within each of the target regions were then recruited with volunteer parents from these playgroups receiving training, resources, monitoring and assistance from a staff member employed by Playgroup NSW who had expertise in playgroup modelling and community engagement. The Playgroup NSW staff member also worked with a staff member from each of the aged care facilities to ensure the group activities and environment would meet the needs of both the children and the older participants. Three IPGs were successfully run and included in the evaluation.
Evaluation utilised a mixed methods design, including surveys and structured observation, to explore experiences and assess impacts associated with implementation of the community led model. The focus was on the experience of key stakeholder groups including parents and children, aged care staff, and aged care residents.
Evaluation results were overwhelmingly positive with regards to the IPGs supporting engaging and fun social interactions of mutual benefit for all the generations. The organised activities within the IPG were successful in promoting social contact and improved mood for the older residents. Structured observations and parent and staff report supported the activities as underpinning an uplift in mood within the aged care environments, and the increased alertness of many older people whether they were directly engaged with activities or not. Parent surveys also highlighted the interaction with older residents as a social asset for their children and themselves. The research also challenges the need for staff engagement and energy to drive cross generation interaction, gain meaningful input from older residents into program activities, and adapt aged care environments to meet the needs of younger children.