Going for a walk in our neighbourhood, my daughter and I spot an elderly man with withered hands, a hunched back, grey hair and all alone.  In one hand he holds his groceries tight, his walking stick in the other, slowly making his way to the bus stop.

I look and I think to myself – how lonely he must be, how hard that no one is helping him with his groceries – age brings so many struggles. As adults, we almost fear it when we see it, we might even feel sorry for that elderly person, even though we don’t know their life story. Meanwhile, little Miss 4 beside me is looking curiously at the man’s walking stick, checking out the leather and patterns on the stick and says in awe, “Mum, look at that stick, he can use that for so many things!”. She watches how slowly he walks, able to take in the world and complains, “Why do we have to hurry, why can’t we go slowly too?”. She stares at his hair and asks, “Mum, I love that colour, will my hair be that colour too?”. I can see she wishes she could jump on the same bus and travel far, seeing new places and creating imaginary adventures along the way.

It seems to me that as adults, we often associate ageing and ‘getting old’ as something negative. Is this because we have witnessed the slow decline of our elderly family members? Is it because we are worried about our health deteriorating and being a burden to our loved ones? I’ve come to realise that instead of dwelling on the possible hardships that may come, we instead should implement a less stressful and worrisome outlook on becoming elderly.  Fresh young eyes – like my 4-year-old daughter’s – have a curious and innocent perspective, which allow for perfectly wonderful and non-judgemental interactions.

During an Ageless Play intergenerational playgroup session, we adults might find ourselves tiptoeing around our “grand” friends to not offend or upset them. But with the children, nothing is off limits – the innocence in their questions removes boundaries! These open, honest and playful interactions between the children and the aged-care residents bring joy and positively impact their week. The residents get to relive their favourite stories; the children interact in a way we never thought to do.  They prove to us that they know just the right way to engage with each other. We find ourselves observing generations from opposite ends of the scale, learning with and from each other.

I find myself pondering the different perspectives of the young and old.  At one of our Ageless Play sessions, a young boy asked his mum why an older lady was asleep for the entire session.  To him, she was missing out on the fun of playgroup. But the mum used the opportunity to talk about different stages of life and being accepting and gentle of others.  It was a new perspective for the young boy to understand.

As adults, it is our nature to overthink the simplest things and often we forget to consider someone else’s point of view.

Take a look at this cartoon.

A tree can be seen in many different ways to different people, depending on their perspective or view. To the businessman – a product to be used for expansion and growth. To the resident – a necessity for warmth in winter.  To the woodworker – a creation, something useful and artistic. And the child’s perspective? The tree is a tree – with the chance for endless adventures including climbing and swinging. The thought process is beautiful and simple.  

I decided to take this a little further and asked some children and adults what ‘getting older’ meant to them. The children’s responses were vastly different to the adults! They responded with innocence and honesty.

What Does Getting Older Mean to You?

Responses from the children, aged 3yrs – 13yrs:

  • Mr 9: Owning my own house and making my own money
  • Miss 11: Not having to go to school
  • Mr 13: Being over the age of 36 and getting free money from the government
  • Miss 9: Being a teenager and then the older you get the more adult you get
  • Miss 7: Being able to get a mobile phone
  • Mr 12: Freedom
  • Mr 10: I can now get an adult-size boost juice instead of a kids boost juice
  • Miss 3: Going to school
  • Mr 5: Doing what I want, when I want
  • Mr 7: Getting a phone, a TV and a business card

Responses from Adults (“Don’t ask my age, that’s rude!”):

  • Being worried about my health deteriorating
  • Being a burden on my family
  • Regrets about not living my life to the fullest
  • Losing my mind
  • My kids leaving me
  • Having to use other means to get around /not being able to drive
  • Losing bladder control
  • Loss of enthusiasm and drive
  • Dying

A child’s perspective provides the magic needed to create positive social change and wonderful moments of joy across many ages and stages of life.

Blog Post by Jayme Wilson, Field Support Officer – Intergenerational Playgroups