What is it about both children and elders that reminds us how sacred life is? Is it their relative vulnerability or reduced inhibitions? Or their ability to be fully present to the world and each other?
In 2019, Lutheran Services in Queensland embarked on another intergenerational initiative to bring together elder citizens and young children in their community – ‘to spend time together and share moments of joy and wonder’. The project was aptly named ‘Moving Moments’.
With financial support from the Australian Health Department’s Commonwealth Home Support Program, a pilot project began in Buderim on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast – involving children from Immanuel Early Learning Centre and residents of Immanuel Gardens Retirement Living.
Pre-schoolers and elders came together to share a range of activities, after which the grown-ups could enjoy lunch together. The pilot project was designed to evaluate the potential benefits of such interactions on the health and wellbeing of seniors.
Immanuel Gardens Retirement Living resident Shirley Gartner was one of the original participants – and remains one of the most passionate!
‘It is a wonderful experience interacting with the young children’, Shirley says. ‘The bonds you develop nurturing and encouraging the children as they develop their life skills.’
Moving Moments is a celebration of the Lutheran tradition of intergenerational community. In fact, it was with this intergenerational spirit that Immanuel Gardens Aged Care and Retirement Living was established next door to Immanuel Lutheran College some 30 years ago.
As a Lutheran, Shirley was closely involved with the development of both Immanuel Lutheran College and Immanuel Gardens Aged Care.
‘My two daughters attended the college from its inception in 1979, so I was very involved from the start. The following year, the church decided to buy the land next door to establish an aged-care complex. The sites join each other for a reason – so both generations can interact with each other.’
From school concerts and readings to grandparents Day, Shirley says there has always been a strong connection and lively exchange between the elder and student communities.
‘Interacting between Immanuel College and Immanuel Gardens has been happening in some form since both began. This is something the Lutheran Church is very aware of.
‘In Mark 9:36-37, we read “Jesus placed a little child among them; and taking the child in his arms he said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming my Father who sent Me’”.
‘Aged persons can have a great impression on the younger generation’, Shirley says. ‘They impart the love of God by the way they act and care for people, particularly children.’
Moving Moments has attracted strong community interest and has featured widely in the media. An independent assessment of the pilot program has demonstrated increased wellbeing for senior participants through greater social connection. The project is now expanding to new communities and regions in South-East Queensland.
As Shirley attests, being part of a project like Moving Moments fills the heart with joy. ‘There is no greater joy than seeing little children react and enjoy themselves as they strive to do new things – and when we bid farewell for another day, the waves and shouts of “I love you”! God bless them all.’
As part of the Lutheran Church of Australia Queensland District, Lutheran Services continues to be blessed by intergenerational relationships where we can listen and learn from one another – to sustain and strengthen one another and our communities in the bond of peace.