Toddlers bring these dementia sufferers a new purpose

Experts have said that the bond between grandparents and grandchildren is second only to the parent-child bond. Grandparents and grandkids profoundly affect one another – just because they exist! 

While not directly related, a group of toddlers have formed deep bonds with a group of elderly residents – most of whom are living with dementia – by joining them one morning a week to read their favourite books together.

The elderly residents of the Group Homes Australia St Ives facility in Sydney’s northern suburbs excitedly greet three-year-old Verity as she clip-clops down the hallway in her gumboots.

Every Thursday children from the local day care centre bring their favourite books to the home for the residents — many of whom are living with dementia — to read to them.

The story time sessions came about quite organically. The day care centre is across the road from the nursing home; when residents went for their daily walks past the day care centre they began to strike up conversations.

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Michelle Klass, the head of the Family Day Care Centre, and Tamar Krebs, the chief executive of Group Homes Australia, trialled the sessions and two years on, the program has proven hugely beneficial for both the residents and the children.

“It was amazing to see that the residents living with dementia were able to come alive,” said Ms Krebs. “They were so excited and so stimulated by the kids walking in and the kids were so excited by the residents. There was a beautiful interaction between the two of them.”

The children and the elderly residents quickly formed individual bonds.

“In the same way that you know someone, you gravitate towards someone familiar, it’s the same thing here,” said Ms Krebs.

“For a moment in time, the residents feel like they are purposeful again and that somebody needs them.

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“Purposefulness and meaningfulness for somebody living with dementia is essential to their livelihood, to celebrating their own individuality, to fighting depression, to fighting isolation.

“When they’re walking down the street, they know each little kid and they can greet them and it’s a beautiful interaction.”

And it’s not just the residents who are benefitting from the sessions. Ms Klass says the children love becoming the centre of attention.

“The residents are very focused on the kids when they visit, so there’s a lot of one-on-one attention. The light shines on them.

“They don’t have to share their time with anybody else because they’re both living for the moment, with no expectations on either side. They can just enjoy themselves.”

Isn’t that sweet? Do you have a great bond with your grandkids? Share your stories below.