RSL LifeCare has been running a pilot program that brings together students from Heritage Christian School in Port Macquarie and residents of the RSL LifeCare Port Macquarie Le Hamel Village on a weekly basis.

Designed to foster meaningful connections between generations, the Seen and Heard pilot program highlights the importance of fostering ‘offline’ connections outside of social media for students, while also helping older people fight loneliness – a condition that’s experienced by one in five Aussies aged 65 and over – which can be detrimental to both physical and mental health.

The weekly sessions feature activities such as speed interviews, scavenger hunts, games days and knowledge sessions where students have taught the seniors about technology and the seniors have taught the students important life skills.

Le Hamel Village resident Locky Christensen only joined the program to help make up the numbers but soon grew quite affectionate towards the interactions.

“[It was] excellent. I went into it not sure how it would go and to help make up numbers, but I soon changed my attitude because of the kids. I looked forward to it every week!” he said.

Fellow resident Chris Newman said she was surprised by the program’s benefits. “It was enlightening to realise I didn’t have a ‘use by’ date. These teens are genuinely the real deal, they are respectful, caring, considerate and eager to be part of the project.”

Student participants have also enjoyed participating in the program and have found it brings them joy, happiness and motivation.

Pearl said the program has given her some motivation to get into school on Mondays and loves chatting to residents who “have been making me feel really loved and appreciated.”

“I have learned so much about their stories. It never fails to amaze me. They have taught me so many life lessons and given me advice on so many things,” she said.

“I love hearing all about their lives and I loved it when Locky said ‘You guys made my day’. I love seeing how much fun they have when they are chatting and doing activities, and it definitely puts me in a good mood too!” said another student Isla.

Given all the positive feedback, RSL LifeCare is looking at potentially rolling out the pilot to its other villages across NSW and ACT.