Wairarapa woman creates playgroups for young and old to cure loneliness

Loneliness is a major problem among New Zealand's aging population, which has prompted a Wairarapa woman to create playgroups between a community's oldest and newest members. 

A third of New Zealand's elderly spend more than eight hours a day alone. Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton has said elderly people in New Zealand need to be given better care and attention. 

In an effort to thwart elderly loneliness in her community, Wairarapa woman Lucy Adlam created playgroups where elderly people hang out with young children. 

"The mental health of elderly is so connected to their physical health," says Ms Adlam, Wairarapa Intergenerational Playgroup founder. 

"It's essential that they don't feel those feelings like loneliness, because that's just detrimental to them."

A lot haven't seen young children in years, so games and balloons take the elderly residents back to their younger days. Jonas Koukl, a music therapist, also joins to add a bit of sound and soul to the hangouts. 

"The mental health of elderly is so connected to their physical health," says Lucy Adlam, Wairarapa Intergenerational Playgroup founder.
"The mental health of elderly is so connected to their physical health," says Lucy Adlam, Wairarapa Intergenerational Playgroup founder. Photo credit: The Project

"You forget how you were yourself at that age. I wish I could turn the clock back and start over. It's so fantastic, all these little boys and girls - absolutely amazing," says Paul Veltkamp, a Roseneath Lifecare resident. 

These people haven't always been elderly, Ms Adlam explains. She says you "just need to strike up that conversation to tap into their old-self". 

"There's so much you can learn from them and share with them," she adds. 

"Many families are overseas and the children don't get to see their grandparents and the grandparents don't get to see their grandchildren," says Margaret Sharp, facility manager. 

"Between the music and the activities, everyone just gets a huge amount of pleasure out of it."

Newshub.