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Connecting with the community to build relationships through stories

12 October 2021    


Students from Mid North Christian College are building relationships with Helping Hand Home Care clients, as part of an Australian-first project to connect with the community, reduce loneliness and share their life stories.

A group of 24 students and six older people in Port Pirie will be spending time together each week as part of a program based on the highly successful, UK-based Bridging Ages’ Life Stories project.

Over eight weeks, each of the six Home Care clients will share their life story with a group of four senior students, who will create a Life Story Book to present back to their new friend at the end of the project.

Helping Hand Chief Executive Chris Stewart said the program would be rewarding for both residents and students.

“Bringing older people together with interested students is a way of providing social support and an opportunity for our clients to interact with a younger group of people, while getting out into the community and sharing their life story,” Mr Stewart said.

“We are committed to supporting programs that can help tackle ageism in our communities. This program is designed to create a space for younger people to increase their respect for older people, value their stories and life experiences, and to honour their histories.”

The Bridging Ages program began in Sussex in 2014, connecting older people with teenagers. It has reduced loneliness, with participants sharing their histories and personal reflections of lives lived, ensuring stories are not lost or forgotten. Each connection has resulted in the creation of a Life Story book.

Mid North Christian College has written the program into its curriculum and students will be assessed across English and Community Studies subjects.

School principal Crystal Rich said the program was a fantastic initiative that provided an opportunity for students to authentically connect with adults who were open to sharing their life experiences and wisdom.

“Our Year 9 students will participate in the program as part of their English studies, and it will challenge them to think about the world from a different perspective,” Ms Rich said.

“Our hope is to continue the program annually and encourage other schools to adopt the program moving forward.

“I think this program will strengthen our community connection and will encourage younger people to see the value of building meaningful relationships with people who have a wealth of experience and knowledge.

“The program will provide an opportunity for the Year 9 students to give back to the community and to reflect deeply about their own identity.”