A hundred-year age difference doesn't stop gurgling toddlers from befriending the elderly at an Auckland retirement village every Friday.

The troupe of tots have been visiting Selwyn Village in Pt Chevalier for the past 18 months as part of the Baby Buddies programme. Around 10 mums and babies sing songs, read books, chat and play with groups of residents, aged up to 101.

The kids build social skills, the mums get to talk to other adults and the fun and friendship breaks down the loneliness the elderly face, Diversional Therapist Orquidea Mortera says.

She is encouraging more retirement villages to set up their own programmes with local mums.

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Mum Helen Brimelow with her 16-month-old daughter Josie and 84-year-old Lillian Nielson. Photo / Sarah Harris
Mum Helen Brimelow with her 16-month-old daughter Josie and 84-year-old Lillian Nielson. Photo / Sarah Harris

Mortera says it helps people forget about their age-related diseases like Parkinson's, dementia and strokes.

"It's fantastic, research shows loneliness is a huge risk factor physically, emotionally and spiritually and it shortens people's lives. A huge part of our mission is to avoid that for people in our care."

The residents, many of whom have great-grandchildren, offer their best parenting advice to the new mums. Mortera recalled one mum and an elderly woman who bonded over their shared experience of post-natal depression.

"The new mum was able to see it was something she would get through."

Baby Buddies team leader Carolyn Berridge, who is six months pregnant, agrees. The residents help her relax and enjoy parenting. She says many had lost children and reminded her to treasure parenting.

"They give advice like about how to get him to sleep. And to not get too worried. Every stage is over soon so just relax and enjoy the children you have," Berridge said.

She came across the programme when she took her son, Sam, for walks in the area. Now 2, he loves coming to the village every Friday. He has a particular shine for the gentlemen, she said.

Baby Buddies team leader Carolyn Berridge and her son Sam, 2, spent time with 79-year-old Russell Dennerly. Photo / Sarah Harris
Baby Buddies team leader Carolyn Berridge and her son Sam, 2, spent time with 79-year-old Russell Dennerly. Photo / Sarah Harris

One of those gentlemen is 79-year-old Russell Dennerly. He says the programme helps combat loneliness as the little ones boss him around.

"It keeps us connected with the outside ... The little old ladies brighten up beautifully when the kids come in."

"The kids have all got their own little personalities."

Lillian Nielson, 84, says the programme helped build friendships between the elderly as well as the children. She said some of the residents didn't know many people before they started coming to Baby Buddies. Nielson loves babies and was a midwife for many years in Gisborne.

"We talk and you see [the residents] get a smile on their face.

"When they see you next time they say 'hello'. It's getting a lot of us together."

New Baby Buddies groups are being started in Hillsborough, St Heliers and Hamilton.

Anyone interested in setting up a Baby Buddies programme can contact Orquidea Mortera at orquideam@selwyncare.org.nz.