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PORTUGUESE PROGRAM BONDS GENERATIONS: The Intergenerational Toy Library brings children and older persons together to play, create games and enjoy each others' company.

Research shows that playing games stimulates cognitive, emotional and physical development in children and slows the loss of cognitive, sensory and other functions in older persons.

Implemented in 2014 in Arada, Portugal, the pilot for the Intergenerational Toy Library: One, Two, Three . . . Let's Play Again? involved, in total, 88 children (aged three to six) and 15 older persons aged 74 to 96.

The initiative was part of the European project, Together Old and Young, aimed at nurturing intergenerational relationships and learning.

Intergenerational Toy Library

The program involved several partners:

  • University of Aveiro

  • Centro Comunitário São Pedro de Aradas, a private nonprofit institution with day care and kindergarten programs, and

  • older persons from different seniors' homes in the area.

How it worked

Each week, older adults and children met for planned activities. The ratio included five older persons to eight children.

During each two-hour session, three activities occurring simultaneously in three different rooms in a seniors' facility.

Room 1 featured board games, such as puzzles and dominos.

Room 2 focused on creating and building games with different themes. Learning colours or identifying animals, for example.

Room 3 featured physical activities designed to provide exercise and improve motor skills.

Children rotated through the three rooms participating in all the activities, while the older adults remained in one room and engaged in the same activity. The overall process was facilitated by two intergenerational educators.

Benefits: The program showed that games and toys are powerful tools in enhancing interaction between young children and older persons. Clear rules and instructions can lead old and young to play together for long periods, totally focused and engaged.

Children taught older persons how to play with a tablet, and older persons taught children how to play a variety of board games. Most importantly, the playing and building process allowed old and young to learn and have fun together.

The program was profiled online in the Journal of Intergenerational Relationships on Aug. 25, 2016.



EXPLORING THE BENEFITS OF ROBOTIC PET THERAPY: More and more nursing facilities are turning to robotic therapy pets to soothe the agitation and anxiety that often accompany dementia and Alzheimer's.

In 2009, researchers at the University of Winnipeg led Canada's first project to study robots and their impact on individuals with cognitive impairment. The team examined the impact of Paro, a cuddly version of baby harp seals found off the coast of Quebec's Îles de la Madeleine (Magdalean Islands), on residents living with dementia in Deer Lodge Centre, a long-term care and rehabilitation facility in Winnipeg.

Today Paro is used in dementia care in more than 30 countries. The findings of a recent Australian study, published in the Journal of Aging Research (vol. 2016) reinforces the use of Paro as a therapeutic tool. For people with dementia, the researchers found that use of the furry seal improved mood, reduced challenging behaviours and encouraged social interaction.

But Paro is not cheap. Now in its ninth version, the extremely lifelike seal is touted as a medical device and costs about $6000 US.

Enter the robotic cats, called Joy for All Companion Pets. They cost $99 and are made by Hasbro. The company's first product, the robotic cat comes in three models: orange tabby, creamy white and silver with white mitts.

The Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx got its first cat robot a year ago. The staff tried it out on an older resident in the Memory Care wing, who was searching frantically for her long-deceased parents. The woman calmed right down. Since then, the Hebrew Home has acquired 24 more cats, with plans for possibly 50 more.

The robotic cat is designed to mimic a real animal. When people scratch the back of the cat's head, it purrs. After petting, the cat opens its eyes and meows for more.

Mary Farkas, the director of therapeutic activities at the Hebrew Home told the New York Times, that she has seen many residents form close bonds with their furry friends.

"For a lot of our residents, it's a chance to be a caregiver, and to be in an active, empowered role again," she said. "A lot of times this disease causes passivity, and we're always looking for ways to combat that."



NEW BOOK HELPS RURAL PRACTITIONERS: Rural communities are aging rapidly.
The Tales that bind
Every year, thousands of new practitioners in professions such as education, social work, medicine and the church move to rural settings to work.

Most professionals are trained in large urban centres. Some new practitioners find rural life and rural practice are like working in a new language.

In The Tales that Bind, William Lowell Randall, Rosemary Clews and Delores Furlong, present a narrative approach to facing these challenges. They argue that the real teachers about rural life are the people who are living it, and that success as rural practitioners requires "knowing the story" – whether that is personal, communal or regional.

The Tales that Bind draws on in-depth interviews with more than 40 practitioners working in a range of professions and communities throughout rural New Brunswick, Canada. Written in a bright conversational tone, this impassioned book has three sections:

In Part One, the authors present:

  • the background of the study
  • the New Brunswick story, and
  • the researchers own stories.

Part Two presents fictionalized vignettes, illuminating the realities of small-town life, captured through the eyes of a

  • teacher
  • social worker
  • physician
  • minister,
  • police officer, and
  • a community activist, among others.

Part Three explores lessons from the study. They include:

  • a curriculum framework

  • recurring themes, and

  • a host of practical strategies.

Many of the practitioners in the study talked about everyday stress, and their struggle to adapt what they had learned in their professional training to the needs of residents in their small town or remote hamlet.

So what's the secret to establishing a successful rural practice?

According to the authors:

It involves bringing an open mind to the ongoing conversation within a given small community, letting its residents teach us what it is they need, and learning how our skills can "meet" their needs, not assuming that, as "trained professionals" we know this in advance.



TO SET THE DARKNESS ECHOING: The late Seamus Heaney, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1995, was born on a farm in County Derry in 1939.

He lived through the Troubles that devastated Northern Ireland communities between 1968 and 1998.

Poets change the way we look at the world. They provide a glimmer of something better. In his poem The Cure at Troy, Seamus Heaney wrote:

History says, don't hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.