When I retired from work six years ago, I did the usual things – I travelled the world and indulged in my passion for writing and painting. I had time to walk and enjoy nature, but I missed the camaraderie of working with a group of people who all shared a common goal – to be the best they could be at their jobs. There is joy in doing something worthwhile with your days.
When Rhonda from EdConnect visited the Port Phillip Retirement Village, where I have lived with my husband, David, for the past seven months, I jumped at the chance to volunteer and be involved. I went to the meeting and found that every person there had a lifetime of experiences, skills and stories to share, and EdConnect offered us the chance to do just that while helping children to learn new skills and to feel valued as individuals.
On my first day assisting the Prep classroom at Altona Primary School, I felt a little nervous but quickly put at ease with a warm welcome. I could do the tasks that busy teachers often have to do after school hours. Things like cutting and pasting the children’s work onto colourful frames, sorting maths games, organising resources and helping children read simple books. The children were warm and funny and quite interested in asking me questions like, “What will you be when you grow up?” The teachers were all so very grateful. I felt like I was making a difference in my own small way.
This week a Grade 2 visited my retirement village and interacted with the residents there. The residents dressed in their best clothes to greet our little visitors with a smile. For many children, an older person is a scary thing – fairy tales often put the words “ugly and old” together, and so there is a stigma to getting old in the minds of some children. That first tentative moment soon made way for intergenerational shy smiles and laughs and even some interesting questions like the one about my husband, “Is David a bad man? He has a tattoo!” And the question about my tiny gold cross on a chain, “Is that church jewellery?” I answered the question while stifling a laugh. Innocence is a beautiful thing.
For the residents, this was a chance to feel the enthusiasm of youth and share stories of their own youth. It was a time to feel valued. For many children, the day brought memories of grandparents overseas or who have passed. It provided a safe environment to ask questions and get honest or surprisingly funny answers. There were songs and stories and a visit from a very special guest – the Easter Bunny, who arrived with a basket full of eggs and bunnies and upstaged us all. As the bunny hopped away, we all planned for more intergenerational sharing because we had so much to offer each other.”