School students are working to help elderly residents in aged care facilities feel connected with the community and relief from isolation throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Ballarat Grammar Year 10 students Aviva Channells and Matilda Myers are hoping to restart their program 'Hire A Grandkid' for school students to write letters to elderly residents.
"We learnt about how isolated people in aged care homes would be feeling and disconnected from the rest of the world, especially their families and grandchildren," Matilda said.
"There are benefits for the students as the elderly people sharing their stories gave them a new perspective on the world and opened up the younger students minds."
Aviva and Matilda came up with the idea for the project as part of the Crazy Ideas College program run at their school last year.
There are benefits for the students as the elderly people sharing their stories gave them a new perspective on the world and opened up the younger students minds.Matilda Myers, Ballarat Grammar student
They pitched the idea to community partners who then put them in touch with nurse unit manager Michelle Stirrup-Prazak at Ballarat Health Services' aged care facility PS Hobson.
Twenty five students were paired with residents from the facility and wrote letters to each other throughout term four.
Aviva and Matilda said there was demand for the program with restrictions on visitors in place due to COVID-19 lockdown in Victoria causing loneliness and isolation again.
They are working to restart the program, with a second aged care facility now on board.
Ms Stirrup-Pazak said the residents who participated in the program looked forward to receiving letters and for many, it was the highlight of the week.
"They really look forward to writing back," she said.
"The residents were writing about their lives and their background and where they have come from and these students were also telling them about themselves.
"There is a huge history behind every single person in this home and they have all got a story to tell."
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Aviva said the students loved reading stories from the residents.
"There was a married couple that participated in it and they shared stories of them falling in love and the student found that really interesting," she said.
"A student says she wants to participate again and be matched up with the same person. They definitely found it a meaningful program."
Ballarat Grammar middle school leadership and service coordinator Kate Brusamarello said the Crazy Ideas College program gave Aviva and Matilda the confidence to launch their idea.
"Service is a key value of Ballarat Grammar and writing letters as part of the Hire a Grandkid program is a simple way for students to contribute to the wellbeing of others in the broader community," she said.
"Aviva and Matilda have had a really positive response from Year 7s and Year 8s who are interested in the next round of the program, which shows just how keen young people are to establish and develop connections, particularly during these times of COVID safe restrictions."
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