Officially launched on 28 October, coinciding with Grandparents Day, the initiative, developed by home, community and aged care provider Feros Care and funded by the Government’s Strong and Resilient Communities Grant, aims to see young people turn off their digital devices and seek the answers to life’s questions from senior resources in their lives - such as grandparents, neighbours, family friends or aged care residents.
The program asks school students to write or video-message questions they have to seniors in their life - ranging from close grandparents and those miles away, through to neighbours, community members and Feros Care residential village residents.
Federal Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, encouraged all schools - whether primary, secondary, public or private - to participate in the program which he launched alongside Assistant Minister for Children and Families Michelle Landry, and Feros Care Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jennene Buckley in Canberra.
“This is a win-win innovation for young and old, focussing on the fun of generational sharing and the value of personal connections,” Minister Wyatt says.
“Ask Gran Not Google is a touching reminder to young people and the wider community that the internet is far from the only source of valuable information in today’s world.
“It combines old-fashioned and high-tech methods to link young and old.”
Ms Landry shared Minister Wyatt’s excitement over the national launch of Feros Care’s humble concept, saying that the “exciting project” builds social inclusion and a sense of belonging.
“By engaging more with older people, children and teenagers gain invaluable insights into the role seniors can play in their lives and in society,” she says.
“These types of projects inspire young people, enrich our communities, and promote wellbeing and safety.
“Senior Australians in particular benefit from the social engagement and appreciation, while young students broaden their understanding and develop their communications skills.”
More than 1000 primary and secondary students from Queensland and New South Wales participated in the pilot program in late 2017, with more than 150 schools representing over 22,000 students across Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania already registered for the program now that it has been launched.
Feros Care CEO Ms Buckley says the not-for-profit provider has been “blown away” by the response from schools, especially given that the project came from just one staff member whose family banned technology in favour of going to grandparents for any questions that needed answering.
“We always knew the concept would be well received but have been overwhelmed by how quickly teachers have rushed to sign up since we were able to expand the program,” Ms Buckley explains.
“The Federal Government grant has allowed us to turn a simple idea into a fully fledged school-based program that has huge benefits not just for students but our senior citizens.
“In a society where people are lamenting the erosion of old-world values, Ask Gran Not Google is playing a key role in helping build and foster intergenerational connections.
“Teachers and parents alike are telling us they are excited by how Ask Gran Not Google is showcasing the wisdom and life experiences of our seniors to the youths of today.
“It’s important children are exposed to positive attitudes about ageing and seniors can help them develop skills to enhance lifelong learning in ways the internet is unable to.
“And Ask Gran Not Google is just as crucial for seniors as we are seeing it promote improved health and wellbeing.”
Ms Buckley says Feros Care hopes the initiative will reach 91,000 students in more than 950 schools during the next three years, with plans to further expand it to 3,600 schools and 246,000 students.
The not-for-profit is also working to develop the Virtual Seniors Centre, through a seperate $1 million grant from the Federal Government’s Dementia and Aged Care Services program.
More information on the program and how to become involved can be found online or by emailing [email protected].