Students at our independent high school, Bowen College, have been staying in regular contact with an aged care facility as part of their STEP Program. The Senior and Teens Empathy Program (STEP) has been a favourite for many Bowen students and for residents at the Bupa Aged Care facility since 2018 and many lasting bonds have formed from their visits.
Bowen students were visiting the facility regularly this year in term one and not only did they bring life into the aged care homes, but the students themselves gained valuable skills such as increased confidence, self-esteem and empathy.
Due to social distancing, the program was put on hold, and the residents and students were devastated, but this did not stop our students and teachers from working hard to organise regular virtual catch ups. Now residents have been given the chance to learn how to use different technologies to engage in social catch ups with students.
Samantha Heron is the founder of the program and created it in order to connect generations together and improve the mental wellbeing of both seniors and teenagers.
“The benefits of the program really go both ways. It’s not just teenagers visiting older people to make them feel better, it’s all grounded in research looking at the overall wellbeing benefits for both parties. We see real gratitude coming from the students in their feedback.”
“ We also have a lot of priceless moments, just last week we had a resident saying if she was the same age as her visitor she knows they would have been best friends at school! Another favourite moment of mine from the virtual catch ups, was a combined virtual 17th and 70th birthday party. The two were stoked when they realised they shared the same birthday and knew they had to celebrate.”
The feedback from Bowen students has been very positive, many expressing how grateful the program has made them for their health and for the little things that they have:
“At the time when I started this program I thought I had so many issues in my own life, with school and friends and family. But when I got into the program it really gave me some perspective and when I reflected on my life I became really grateful for the things I did have and for my health and my youth. “– Sarah*
This heart-warming program has improved not only the lives of residents at the aged care facility but of our students as well. Well done to our students and staff for organising these virtual catch ups that are bringing hope during what is a difficult time for many.