The Wisdom Club: Ageing Well Through Intergenerational Connections

Flinders University 2021

Researchers: Associate Professor Tim Windsor, Dr Monica Cations

Meaningful connections, purposeful activity, and generativity are central to the mental health and wellbeing of older adults and can be supported through volunteer activities with an intergenerational focus. To this end, we aimed to co-design and pilot a new intergenerational project—The Wisdom Club—to create opportunities for purposeful engagement for older adults, enhance outcomes for disadvantaged children in the priority area of reading, and strengthen communities. This research will enable refinement of the model, strengthen future funding applications, and establish a focal point for interdisciplinary collaboration within Flinders Institute of Mental Health and Wellbeing’s “Across the Lifespan” theme.

A six-week pilot program at Noarlunga Downs Primary School was conducted to promote a new way of engaging with the community among older South Australians, by encouraging them to share their life experiences with younger generations.

Established by Flinders University as part of an innovative research program, the project focused on the positive impact of intergenerational social interactions through shared learning opportunities without the deployment of modern technology and screens.

The pilot encourages students and older volunteers to play math-based board games and participate in a range of activities that promote the development of math literacy and skills.

Supported by funding from Breakthrough, the pilot examines the benefits of one-on-one learning by including older South Australians in the school community to improve student outcomes and foster positive perceptions of ageing among youth, changing negative stereotypes.

Flinders University PHD Student in the College of Education, Psychology, and Social Work, Amy Harvey, says the pilot has created structured opportunities for older South Australians to engage with schools as they look to better connect with their local communities with the easing of COVID restrictions.

“The aims of the project are to create opportunities for older people to share their experience and wisdom with younger generations while providing support for children’s learning outcomes. We’re seeking to establish real-world opportunities for older volunteers to engage with school aged children as part of a broader research initiative that looks at the potential improvements in their mental health and wellbeing, as well as the obvious benefits for the children,” says Ms. Harvey.

“We have seen a really positive response during the pilot trial at Noarlunga Downs Primary School and hope the Wisdom Club can be a catalyst for a statewide program that provides an outlet for older South Australians to pass on their knowledge, as well as forming new and meaningful social connections.”

“This trial has proven to be so encouraging that we are keen to explore ways of running the program throughout South Australia.”

John Mannion, CEO of Breakthrough, says “We all share a need to feel a sense of belonging, purpose and connection in our community, none more so than older Australians.”

“The Wisdom Club is the perfect opportunity for those older Australians to engage with and impart their wisdom on our youth. Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation is proud to work with Flinders University to bring older and younger Australians closer together.”