Preschoolers share Chanukah with Aged Care residents

December 11, 2017 by Wendy Kay
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There were around 80 or so odd years and a lifetime of experience between them, but laughter and song easily bridged the generation gap when pre-schoolers visited the residents of BUPA Aged Care in Sydney’s St Ives. 

Tyler Barnes-Faber, Lauren Fox, Robert Denham, Sylvia Coatsworth and Ella Calvert

Flanked by their teachers, parents and grandparents, the youngsters from Ganeinu Long Day Care and Preschool partnered up to walk across Mona Vale Road to BUPA, ready to sing and dance for their elderly neighbours.

The children entertained the residents with songs they are performing at their end of year concert this week. They opened with People All Around the World – Hello, a melody of different languages to represent their own varied cultures and closed with Oh Chanukah. After their final bows, the children presented each resident with a flower and Chanukah gelt.

Among their captive audience were a former personal trainer, a sailor, a businessman and teacher, all strangers just four months ago before the BUPA centre opened, now brought together by children and song.

Ganeinu’s Centre Manager Jennie Hudson said she didn’t hesitate when asked by BUPA to participate in their Adopt A Nanny program.

“There is great enthusiasm to connect from both sides,” she said.

“As soon as our children entered the room everyone’s face lit up with delight and I noticed the feet began to tap with the first song. This will definitely be the first of many visits.”

Ella Calvert, 5, agreed saying she wanted to return the next day to sing and dance again. “And I want to bring my little brother along too,” she said. “We had so much fun.”

Rabbi Nochum Schapiro, Director of Chabad North Shore and Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand said he was delighted with the innocence, freshness and joy the children brought to the BUPA residents.

‘As many of our children are immigrants, there is often a geographical disconnect from their grandparents,” he said. “Ganeinu teaches the Jewish principles of respect for elders and the unique respect for those who have gone through the myriad of vicissitudes of life experiences. It is good for the children to meet with older people and learn the responsibility of respect for elders and the elderly.”

BUPA’s general manager, John Kemsley, said music was important therapy for their residents, particularly those with dementia.

“They may not say much, but when they hear the music you will see them tap their feet and start to clap,” he said. “It’s very special.”

Lifestyle Officer Carol Guan said similar interaction programs have proven very successful in other BUPA aged care centres around Australia.

“I have seen children build wonderful relationships with our elderly where they run in calling ‘nanny, nanny’ because they feel the love and care from the residents,” she said. “Having Ganeinu up the road is perfect for us, it has such a lovely family feel to it. We are looking forward to a wonderful relationship and hope to reciprocate with visits to the children at their centre next year.”

BUPA residents Sylvia Coatsworth, Robert Debnam and Martyn Nichols who moved into the centre when it opened in September said it was important to be connected to the young.

“I’m still waiting for grandchildren,” Mr Nichols said. “So I was looking forward to them coming.”

“There were very animated, definitely a few actors among them,” said Mr Debnam.

“Yes, they were all little superstars,” said Mrs Coatsworth.

Ms Guan said the centre was planning to take its residents to see Chanukah On The Green in St Ives where Chabad North Shore joins Masada College and other community organisations to celebrate with live music, rides and craft before the lighting of the big menorah and fireworks.

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