Making friends is child’s play

Neighbors have become friends and in the process have taught us all that friendship knows no limits—age or otherwise.

A nursing home, Mercy Place Abbotsford, and kindergarten, the University of Melbourne's Early Learning Center, reside next door to each other in Melbourne, Australia. They joined forces earlier this year to help reduce isolation, encourage social engagement and promote physical activity among residents, the majority of whom have dementia. All through child's play.

Mercy Health spokeswoman Karen Gooding told ABC News Australia the initial plan was to arrange a couple get-togethers. "But after a few visits, the kids wanted to see more of the residents, and they wanted to see the kids as well so we made it a fortnightly thing," Gooding said. "You find a lot of the time, the residents have grandchildren and great-grandchildren the same age as the kids here, so they enjoy connecting with them."

Kindergarten teacher Rei Otsuki says the feeling is mutual. Many children have developed strong friendships with the residents, including a young boy who "constantly" asks about a 100-female resident. "He helps her out with her coffee, and he loves reading stories to her," Otsuki said. "That's really beautiful to see."

Mercy Health is rolling out the program at facilities nationwide based on positive feedback from parents and teachers.

Topics: Activities , Alzheimer's/Dementia