Spotlight On: Connections that Age

9 June 2023


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 9 June 2023 and Beaches COVERED Magazine, 2023 Winter Issue.

Age is used to group people. It is often used to categorise individuals by skills and interests, as at school. For the most part, this makes sense. It would be strange to have a Kindergartener working in the classroom with a Year 12. But even as we grow older, we are still drawn to people of a similar age and they naturally become the people who we surround ourselves with. When we do this, however, we can lose connections with other parts of our community.

The Intergenerational Program at Queenwood takes a small group of Year 9 girls every Thursday to our local Aged Care Centre, Glengarry. We interact with the residents. We ask them questions about the happiest moments in their life, listen when they recount struggles, and sometimes, just sit in comfortable silence whilst we appreciate each other’s company. I heard stories from a woman who, despite her father’s orders, overcame the odds and studied law at Cambridge. She told me I should do what makes me happy, even if that means going against what society tells me a woman should be. I talked to a lady who travelled as a flight attendant. She told me to get out into the world and see all the beautiful places it has to offer. I spoke to a woman who grew up in Italy and was a designer for Christian Dior. She told me about her home at the seaside and how much she misses her favourite music. One of Queenwood’s values is service, something that we are taught from Kindergarten to Year 12. Service allows us to give back to our community and provides a sense of purpose. Connecting with the residents at Glengarry has allowed us to gain a new perspective whilst also bringing them someone to talk to.

When I originally signed up for this program, many things were running through my head. I thought about what an amazing opportunity it would be to talk to these people and how it would bring them joy. I wanted to be there for them and give them something to look forward to each week. However, when I signed up, I was unaware of the impact it would have on me. I had not thought much about our wider community. I had never thought about visiting an aged care home before and was unaware of how much a small act of service could mean to someone else. The residents say that the short amount of time we spend at Glengarry is enough to completely turn around their whole week. It may not seem like much, given that the time we spend there is limited, but the effect it is having on both students and the elderly says otherwise. These trips are becoming the highlight of my week. The connections we are building are something that cannot be compared or described. We listen to their stories, and they listen to ours.

Age is only a number, but it will always define us in some way. As we get older, we get more responsibilities. When we are 16, we can drive. When we are 18, we can vote. With age comes experience. Older people have so much wisdom and knowledge to share with us. Whilst the challenges of our lives may be different from what theirs would have been, the roots and concepts are still the same. Having the opportunity to gain insights and hear just a snippet of their amazingly diverse lives is such a privilege.

The Intergenerational Program will leave a mark on me. It has taught me how easily we forget to open our eyes and that it is never too late to make an effort. The older generation have done so much for us and led unique lives that are worth sharing. I have benefited so much from this programme, and feel lucky to be able to continue it.

We can choose  how age defines us, and it shouldn’t define who we choose to spend our time with. I went to Glengarry wanting to make a difference in someone’s life. Coming back each week, I have now realised how much they have already made a difference in mine. For that, I will always be grateful.