Sophie waits at the gate for the bus to arrive.

Her eyes light up as Lila Whiley (pictured below) steps down from the bus.

They have arrived, a secret educational weapon, residents from the Bundaleer Lodge Nursing Home.

Sophie is in pre-prep at the Ipswich Junior Grammar School’s Early Education Centre. She has already drawn a picture which she presents to Lila with a huge grin.

“I drew her a picture with a flower in a box, there is a text and the house and the sun. I love drawing pictures for them,” Sophie said.

Each week the children eagerly await their special visitors. It is part of the Sharing Spaces program which was introduced this year.

The goal is to build relationships across generations by sharing stories and engaging with each other.

Lila Whiley, 81, is used to helping old people. Mrs Whiley has volunteered for 25 years with the 60 and Better group.

“The oldies versus the little ones communicate so differently and interact so differently,” Mrs Whiley said.

“The children ask lots of questions. They say to me ‘how old are you?’, ‘Are you a grandma?’

“I love watching them play imaginary, their little minds are so different. The things they come out with are so unexpected.

“One little girl said to me the other day ‘you’ve got hairs on your chin just like my mummy’ I laughed and asked her if her mummy had dark hair also which she said she did.”

Mrs Whiley has three sons, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren but she does not get to see them as often as she would like.

“All of the parents are working and busy but I’m pleased when I do get to see them,” she said.

Likewise EEC director Kirsten Edols noticed on Grandparents Day last year that many of the children did not have grandparents as they many have passed, live interstate or overseas.

“We see the biggest impact on our quiet children, those who don’t normally engage in long conversations with adults, they are the children who become very comfortable and love chatting with our special visitors,” Mrs Edols said.

“We see some genuinely beautiful moments between the children and our visitors, where they will be sharing a story and holding hands. Even our most energetic children will sit quietly and interact with our Bundaleer visitors.”
Bundaleer Lodge Nursing Home diversional therapist Cindy Lindh explains it is not only the children who benefit from the arrangement.

“It’s an exciting outing for the residents to look forward to each week they have interesting stories to tell their families when they come to visit. For Lila, visiting the centre provokes a lot of previous memories from when she worked and then usually on the way home she relieve her stories to us in the bus,” Ms Lindh said.

Another Bundaleer resident Jock Henderson, 90, (pictured above) enjoys being the center of attention.

“I was a sailor in the navy, so last week I brought in a navy book to show them some of the ships I was on during the war in Korea,” Mr Henderson said.

“They drew pictures of the ships for me.”

EEC pre-prep student Cooper reveals he likes drawing for Mr Henderson, but there is something else which he loves to play with more.

Mr Henderson always brings his reaching aid which the children affectionately call ‘his grabber.’

“I like using his grabber. It’s fun,” Cooper said.

Pre-prep student Alfey agrees. “I like that he lets us play with his grabber to pick up the lego and he lets us play with his walking stick,” Alfey said.