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Intergenerational friendships struck up over sudoku

October 7, 2021
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students clients playing games inside

A new community program facilitated by Be’s Townsville team is breaking down the barriers between young and old – using the gentle power of sudoku and sports quizzes, a chat and a cuppa to boost health and social connection.  

Launched in early 2021, the centre-based activities program brings together up to 12 older adults, who are Be clients, and 15 students in Years 11 and 12 from Ignatius Park College in Townsville. 

The intergenerational group meet weekly at the local parish church next to the College and spend two hours getting to know one other over conversation, planned activities and a morning tea.    

The program helps to combat social isolation and feelings of loneliness that affect up to 50% of seniors on a regular basis, with research showing that feeling lonely can pose a bigger health risk than smoking or obesity.  

Townsville’s Be Community Co-ordinator Kathryn Konidis says the program provides a safe space for Be clients to be socially active while engaging their mind and body through gentle exercises and games. 

“The program is receiving rave reviews from our clients because it’s a positive and fun social commitment to look forward to each week,” Kathryn said. 

“It’s especially beneficial for people who are feeling social isolated due to living alone, or for those who are in a caring capacity and need some time away from their loved one to recharge their own battery,” she said.  

“By giving our clients access to social events we can help to boost their brain health, increase their longevity and nurture their sense of purpose. 

“The program is also valuable for the students involved because they are learning the art of striking up a conversation, which is an important life skill, and the joy of giving back to others.   

“It’s heart-warming to see the students and seniors laughing and chatting together. They genuinely enjoy each other’s company and have fun with the conversations and interactions.”   

The group participate in different activities each week, such as sudoku and crossword challenges, quizzes inspired by the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, games of quoits or gentle active games like making and flying paper planes. 

Be client Shirley Dart is a regular participant. “I have been delighted to spend time with these children,” Shirley says. “It’s very interesting to interact with them. They have restored my faith in young people.”    

students and clients indoors playing board games

Fellow participant Shirley Wood agrees. “It’s been lovely to get to know them. I haven’t any family, so I’ve really enjoyed meeting these lovely young men.”  

Neville Hoffman is also thrilled to be involved. “This program has opened my eyes to what the young fellows are experiencing these days, which is very different to what we were up to at their age.   

“I must have met the four best kids out of the whole bunch! We had a ball!”    

Kathryn says the students are great ambassadors for Ignatius Park College as they demonstrate compassion and respect for the people they connect with on these special days.    

Many of the students in the program don’t have grandparents living locally in Townsville, which is the case for Year 11 student Jessie.  

Jessie says, “It’s been good for me to be around older people. I think it’s a great program because we have different mindsets to the older adults, and this means we can have interesting conversations. We’re learning a lot from each other.   

“My friends who are involved have really enjoyed it too; we were talking about it for weeks after our first meeting. It was a great experience. I want to keep being involved.”  

The program is currently facilitated by two dedicated Be team members, Allan Benton and Gail Cook.  

The program has the potential to be rolled out in our other regions within Queensland. 

students and older people playing board games

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