Nursing homes are often associated with only elderly and frail people. But St Joseph’s Home wants to broaden the experiences of its residents.
It is introducing a new curriculum whereby the old live and play alongside the young.
Singapore’s first inter-generational playground and infant and childcare centre within a nursing home were officially launched on Monday (Aug 28), at St Joseph’s Home in Jurong West.
The playground provides a common space for residents and children from the infant and childcare centre on the premises to interact with one another.
The childcare centre and inter-generational playground were launched by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health.
Children and the elderly will interact in activities such as singing and doing arts and crafts. The childcare teachers and nursing-home staff will collaborate and implement a curriculum that caters to both old and young together.
Dr Khor said at the opening: “The home’s inter-generational playground is a trailblazer among nursing homes in experimenting with shared spaces for the young and old. By leveraging the simple yet universal concept of play, this playground aims to attract more children and young ones to interact with seniors.”
She added that the Government shares the vision of promoting more inter-generational facilities to create a more tightly knit community across generations. “We are planning for eldercare and childcare facilities to be co-located in some 10 new HDB housing developments.”
The first such site is in Kampung Admiralty, which has just opened, where a childcare centre and active ageing hub will be located side by side.
“By co-locating the facilities and having operators that will provide inter-generational activities, we hope to create more opportunities for seniors to gain from the infectious energy of the young, as well as for the young to better understand the seniors who share their community,” Dr Khor said.
St Joseph’s Home can take up to 400 elderly residents. The infantcare and childcare centre is open to up to 56 children aged two months to six years, and operates from 7am to 7pm on weekdays and till 2pm on Saturdays.
A spokesman for St Joseph’s Home said nursing homes are generally seen as “dull and depressing”. The spokesman said that the presence of children can energise the elderly and enhance their well-being.
Executive director for the home, Sister Geraldine Tan, said that having children there will complete the “circle of life”.
“They remind us of the purpose of life and of the importance of play and simplicity. Such a model of care, what I call the Full Circle Model, is also where everyone can find a place to co-exist – the young, the old, the dying and the sick. We learn to embrace one another and live in harmony.”
The infant and childcare centre and the playground were added to St Joseph’s Home after a 2½-year renovation. The renovated home reopened early this year.
To promote interaction across generations, the playground (pictured) has special features for young and old, such as a see-saw with a ramp to facilitate wheelchair access. The merry-go-round comes with wheel-lock features for wheelchairs and custom-built seats for toddlers.
Apart from the playground, the home has other shared spaces, such as a cafeteria with senior- and child-friendly furniture and a “funhouse”, where nursing-home residents, children and volunteers can engage in activities such as painting.
Principal of the childcare centre Frances Yap added: “Many youngsters are not exposed to the way of life of seniors. Meanwhile, seniors who have gone into a nursing home have little chance of interacting with children as they don’t often get the chance to go out of the home due to their immobility.”
SMRT Corp has pledged $100,000 towards the development of the playground.
SMRT Trains’ chief executive officer Lee Ling Wee said: “SMRT is happy to work with St Joseph’s Home to further enable interaction and play between the young and old through the creation of this inter-generational playground.”
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times
(Photos: The Straits Times)