Mareeba resident Marie Michilaides is all smiles as she gets a hug from Cubby House for Kids pre-schooler Boston Lane on the pre-school's visit to them.
Mareeba resident Marie Michilaides is all smiles as she gets a hug from Cubby House for Kids pre-schooler Boston Lane on the pre-school's visit to them.

HEARTWARMING: Aged care meets childcare in new program

BRINGING preschool children together with aged care residents warmed the hearts of the nation last year, and a local program inspired by the show is providing plenty of smiles here.

Townsend preschool Cubby House for Kids has joined together with Mareeba aged care in fortnightly visits between the two places.

Inspired by the ABC documentary Old People's Home for 4-year-olds, preschool room teacher Sarah Hourigan contacted Ageless Play, the program involved with the documentary, and found that there was no program running in the Clarence, and decided to start one this year.

"After watching this show and seeing the wonderful relationships that developed between the children and the elderly and seeing resemblances with the children at Cubby, I thought it would be something they could get a lot out of," she said.

"We had our first visit by 10 Mareeba residents three weeks ago, and last week 10 of our preschool children went to Mareeba."

Mrs Hourigan said once together, the children play and chat with the residents, and engage them in art and craft activities, even making them gifts.

"The residents just love watching the children dance and sing, and this week just gone they were able to get up and dance with us," she said.

"Two visits in and I'm ecstatic with how well it's going, and can see lots of potential for more experiences during the year; inviting them to other special events and making the residents part of our Cubby family."

Residents and pre-schoolers dance together as Cubby House for Kids visited Mareeba residents.
Residents and pre-schoolers dance together as Cubby House for Kids visited Mareeba residents.

Cubby House for Kids owner Leanne Robinson said they were excited to be part of such a heartwarming experience.

"While we were very aware of the benefits for both the residents of Mareeba and our Cubby children we were blown away with the extent of the beautiful, respectful and genuine interactions that we were privileged to witness," she said.

"Hearing the laughter and seeing the joy on the resident's faces proved to us the importance of providing these opportunities, particularly for those who may not have extended family close to them."

Mareeba Leisure and lifestyle staff member Chloe Bryant said that the interaction, particularly for those who might not have people nearby was terrific for them.

"It's brings out their cheeky side - it enhances their day," she said.

"Sometimes it's just sitting down and having a chat, or throwing balls, throwing hoops or even dancing."

Merv Milligan gets plenty of attention from Cubby House kids at a visit to Mareeba.
Merv Milligan gets plenty of attention from Cubby House kids at a visit to Mareeba.

Ms Bryant said that Mareeba had engaged in intergenerational programs with schools in the Lower Clarence, with St Joseph's and Pacific Valley scheduled to come later in the year.

But it's with the preschool children that the heartwarming moments have come.

"The kids are very honest, life's simple and the residents enjoy having them around," she said.

"It's lovely; it's hard to take the smile off your face. It's so good to see the residents interacting and happy. It brightens their day."

Mrs Hourigan said that already the residents had rubbed off on the children, with one child who realised a resident who visited them wasn't there last week.

"She made a special request to go and see her before we left," she said.

"It shows that even in the early stages of the visits, the children have made connections to the residents."

Ms Robinson said a family member of one of the residents had made contact thanking the children, their families and staff for bringing such joy and happiness to their loved ones.

"This has been truly a humbling and heartwarming experience," she said.

"It doesn't get much better than this."

Betsy Kratz talks with Cubby House pre-schooler Charlie Palmerat a visit to Mareeba Aged Care
Betsy Kratz talks with Cubby House pre-schooler Charlie Palmerat a visit to Mareeba Aged Care