Some people say the best lessons in the world can be found in the minds of the elderly.

However, for one care home in Rotorua, it is the youngest members of society who are providing the most help.

For the past two years, BestStart Educare in Sunset and The Garden's Care Home have teamed up to allow the oldest members of society to learn a thing or two from the youngest, and vice versa.

Every fortnight, the children head along to The Gardens to sing, dance, play, tell stories and laugh with the elderly residents.


The benefits this has had for both the young and old minds had been phenomenal, BestStart Centre manager Natalie Hall said.

She said it allowed the young ones to learn empathy and kindness and take on life with a no-pre-conceived-judgments approach.

Resident Betty Willetts (left) and Jean Hewitt, 3. Photo / Stephen Parker
Resident Betty Willetts (left) and Jean Hewitt, 3. Photo / Stephen Parker

"They learn to look past disability and have a positive attitude towards ageing."

Attitudes like this started with the youngest members of society, she said.

"The children get so excited to go along to the home."

A lot of the time the stories and play conjured up old memories for the residents, which lent itself to some special intergenerational storytelling, she said.

Sparking old memories and talking about them was highly beneficial for those residents suffering from dementia, The Garden's care home manager Sacha Mountfort said.

Dementia was the term used when a person experienced a gradual loss of brain function and memory because of physical changes in the structure of their brain.


She said it was nice to see the old and the young interacting and for connections to be formed.

"The [intergenerational] gap is ever-increasing nowadays."

Children nowadays often missed out on those special relationships with the elderly which was so important, she said.

She said the visits sparked joy for the elderly patients and they were usually more engaged afterwards.

The residents would "light up" when the children were around and would usually beam for the rest of the day, she said.

As this week was Dementia Action Week, the two centres met for a purple picnic lunch down at the Lakefront.

Chips were eaten, songs were sung and there was not a single straight face in sight.