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August 29, 2019

Little Diggers Preschool Enriches both Young and Old

Young and old living together in close proximity is nothing new at RSL LifeCare’s ANZAC Village, Narrabeen. In 2013 the Little Diggers Preschool opened its doors within the grounds of the iconic aged care village on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.  Since then it has bridged the gap between the generations with weekly visits of pre-schoolers to see their “Grandfriends”.

Brooke Barry, who has worked as a Young Childhood Educator with The Little Diggers Pre-School since 2013, says the relationship between the children and their “Grandfriends” is strong. “Our children receive the undivided attention of the residents when we visit the care homes, which fosters great responses and a strong connection between the two generations”. “It builds confidence in the children and a feeling that they are within a community when they come to preschool.”

“The idea of the generations living and learning in a shared environment benefits the whole community. Our students learn respect for their Grandfriends through sharing and having fun together. And the children help to brighten the residents’ day. It enriches the lives of all involved.”

“Being situated within an aged care setting means that we can spontaneously pop hats on and head out for a walk – especially if something is going on in the Village. The other day we walked over to an area under construction and enjoyed looking at the machinery in action. On other days we take a walk in the sun and wave at the residents we encounter along the way. It’s fantastic to feel that we’re part of the Village’s life.”

Little Diggers out and about at RSL ANZAC Village


The children are welcomed warmly right across the Village in both a structured and ad hoc manner.  “A dance/aerobics class runs regularly on a Friday morning for independent living residents in the Village hall. If it fits with our program we walk down with a class and join in. It adds to everyone’s day when we can participate in the fun that’s already happening in the Village.”

Visiting the Grandfriends is a normal part of a Kindy week for 5 year-old Alma. “I have the same name as one of my Grandfriends. After we finish the craft at the Grandfriends I say bye to Alma and she says bye too. She waves. Alma has short hair and she sits on a chair … she also has a nice house and a garden. I do gymnastics but Alma wouldn’t be good at it because she’s a Grandfriend.”

Alma and Alma share a special bond


“Little Diggers Pre-School is a dream come true for us as early childhood educators,” says Lindy Howarth, Co-Director. “The idea of the generations living and learning in a shared environment benefits the whole community. Our students learn respect for their Grandfriends through sharing and having fun together. And the children help to brighten the residents’ day. It enriches the lives of all involved.”

The children from Little Digger’s Pre-school also take part in important events at RSL ANZAC Village including ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services, lining the street for the ANZAC Day Village March and waving hand-made banners to the passing parade of veterans. “The opportunity to learn about important events such as ANZAC Day, by taking part in the events, provides a powerful learning tool for the children, and informs their understanding of the world around them” says Lindy.

“I’ll miss my Grandfriends when I go to school next year”.

The opportunity for the frail and aged to continue to contribute to the world around them by offering their time and undivided attention is priceless for all concerned. Perhaps it’s best summed up by little Alma when she says “I’ll miss my Grandfriends when I go to school next year”.


By Helen Johnston

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