If there is any anecdote to aging, it may be returning to a source of youth; readjusting our purpose in the turning chapters of life. For many grandparents, caring for their grandchildren is a joy that continues to give them meaning. Young children are good at reminding us of innocence and in many ways, simplicity. Children have the knack of erasing the complexities that swarm the grownup world. They bring us back to the present, connecting.

In the modern world, grandparents are adopting the primary carer’s role as traditional parental duties are modified to suit contemporary living. Often families require greater incomes, careers are of importance and naturally, the moulding of family life has been reshaped through the course of time.

Elizabeth Vescio is part of a very popular grandparent’s playgroup in Avondale Heights. It is so well loved that there has been a waiting list for some time. She said that she loves every minute she now gets to spend with her grandchildren.

"The love and hugs I get in return are priceless."

Elizabeth was still working part time when her children had children of their own and in the end, she chose to spend more time with them than time spent in the working world. Young children are adept at gently letting the grand worries of life drift downstream and for Elizabeth, and many like her, her grandchildren have transformed her daily existence. Her grandchildren have encouraged her to slow down and smell the roses.

"My grandchildren have taught me patience, they have given me the opportunity to do with them things that I was unable to do with my own children."

As Elizabeth soon found out, playgroup gave her an added dimension of learning and drive, all the while exercising her mind. 

"After working for so many years, becoming a playgroup leader has enabled me to still keep my mind active, researching and organising activities, fundraisers and liaising with both MVCC and Playgroup Victoria to make sure we provide a safe, happy and enjoyable environment for all our members."

At first a mentor, Elizabeth soon jumped ahead, with ideas and enthusiasm to contribute in bucket loads. As time has trundled by, the playgroup has become a cornerstone of the local community, proving an enriching source of companionship and meaning for many grandparents in the area, and in surrounding suburbs.   

"From my experience at playgroup, all the grandparents that care for their grandchildren, whether it be for a couple of hours, a few days or all week, they do it for the love of their grandchildren and it is their choice, while at times it can be tiring they give you the energy to keep going." 

"Most say their children are grateful for what they do and make themselves flexible to take days off if they can't for whatever reason be available to look after the grandchildren for any reason, whether it is due to illness or for a vacation. I know my children are."

Avondale Heights has made an impact. It continues to grow.

"This playgroup has been extremely successful and our numbers grew quickly. We have both grandmothers and grandfathers who attend. Some grandfathers are caring for the children because the wife is still working."

After so many years, playgroup is still an important part of communities, it is part of the fabric that forms a patchwork of people and cultures, of varying ages, backgrounds and ambitions.

"I believe community playgroups are important as they provide a safe and enjoyable environment giving the children a place to socialise, learn and play together, preparing them for kinder and school and at the same time it gives their carers somewhere to spend a couple of hours a week sharing their experiences and supporting each other at times when they could otherwise become isolated from the community."

While playgroup is helping her grandchildren to grow, it has also given Elizabeth opportunities to meet other grandparents doing the same as she is. The grandparents have become friends, they share stories and support one another.

Our Playgroup of the Month demonstrates that generational connections are profoundly valuable. It has shown that in the course of life, there is much that can be shared between the ages. Grandparents have great insight, wisdom, experience and care to give, and grandchildren bring so much unrestrained love, reliance, curiosity, learning and affection.

As the years drift by, people fondly remember old memories and wonder why they stopped doing certain things that they once loved. Grandchildren can take their grandparents by the hand and together they embrace the freedom and imagination of play once more.     

Article by Sinead Halliday