Senior woman and teenager

Old People's Home For Teenagers brings generations together to fight loneliness

Published: 31 August 2022

Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds was a huge, heartwarming hit – now teenagers are entering the experiment.

In a global first, older adults and teenagers are being brought together in Old People's Home for Teenagers.

Participants in the senior age bracket range from 74 to 93 years old, and the teenagers sit between 14 and 16 years old.

Viewers might wonder how these two different demographics will come together.

Even the participants were apprehensive.

"I feel like I'm going to be so awkward. I don't know how to relate to them. I feel like they just read the newspaper," one teen remarked before heading into the experiment.

So, what do older adults and teenagers have in common?

The answer is loneliness.

I feel empty, hopeless. I feel lonely all the time,

says 74-year-old Cecilia in the first episode.

When I left corporate life, I sank into a deep depression. I don't see anybody anymore,

Jim says.

What really is there to look forward to. To be quite honest with you I feel as though I'm in god's waiting room just waiting to die,"

75-year-old Philip says.

While the older people experience loneliness through feeling like they're not participating in life anymore, the younger teens struggle with making friends, isolation and working out who they are in life.

Both demographics were some of the hardest hit during the pandemic.

"When I came back from the most recent lockdown, I didn't have anybody. That was kind of the reason I joined the program," says 15-year-old Dora.

One-in-three seniors say they are lonely, for teenagers, it's one in two.

As the show's adolescent expert says, each group has a lot to teach the other and fostering intergenerational relationships could be key to combating loneliness.

How can they help each other?

"One's got a lived experience and the other is going through a journey for themselves, so having someone who has gone through what they're going through allows them to ask questions on ways to get through what they're going through," the show's adolescent expert Ali Faraj says.

All of us are writing our own books, and these older adults have a book that's written, and it's a privilege for us to be able to read that book.

Ali says it's important for parents to put their younger teenagers into environments where they are connecting with other people, both older and younger.

Breaking down generational barriers

"People were starting to share situations, emotions and feelings, and people started to bounce off each other [and] create real life bonds," says Ali.

He says the moments that hit the hardest during the experiment came when people started to realise they aren't alone, and that there are people out there who can support and befriend them.

"To see people realise that they can still get out there, if they're a younger teenager or an adult, they can still participate in activities, and there's opportunities for them to go out and influence others," he says.

The camaraderie of everyone helping each other out was a real eye-opener for me.

The experiment had teenagers teaching the older adults about TikTok and Gen Z abbreviations, while another activity had the adults show the youth how to use a street directory.

Why are intergenerational relationships important?

"There's opportunity to restart, to bring these cohorts together more often. The benefit it has for society for intergenerational connections and opportunities and programs – it should continue," says Ali.

"It will help a lot of people out in the community who are suffering from anxiety, depression or loneliness."

"We found that any relationship, no matter the age, is good for the individual," he says.

No one should live lonely and if you are lonely at the moment, reach out, participate in activities where you can form relationships.

Lasting friendships

And if you're wondering whether it did continue, like Ali said was important – it did.

"I went to see Shakespeare with Phil on Thursday, and Cecilia took me shopping for my birthday," says Dora.

It's all round a really great experience and all the friends I made, I hope I'll be friends with for a very long time.

The five-part series airs from Tuesday, 30 August at 8.30pm on ABC TV and ABC iview.