The Australian Women's Weekly

Solving an age-old problem

It’s a clear sunny day on Sydney’s northern beaches when a 95-year-old man flings his walking cane in the air and breaks into a run, his first in many years, in a determined attempt to win a competitive relay race. His companion, a beaming four-year-old, shouts encouragement as the pair nears the finish line in an event that nobody – not least the elderly competitors – saw coming.

Just a few short weeks ago, 11 residents of a nearby retirement village were chosen to take part in an experiment that many of them believed would be a waste of time. Lonely, bored, suffering a variety of ailments and physical impairments and with barely any human contact outside of the carers who tend to their immediate needs, they felt they had little left to live for in their twilight years. “We are here to die and the sooner the better,” said one grimly.

But then the doors swung open and a stream of boisterous four-year-old preschoolers poured through, singing, laughing, happily waving hello to their elderly audience. Not only did the mood among these unhappy men and women visibly shift as they reciprocated the beaming smiles, but it was the start of what will prove to be a truly magical journey – and one for which

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