Old People’s Home for Teenagers returns for a second season on ABC with a new group of seniors and teenagers.
Loneliness is a widespread concern across both of our groups – the seniors and the teens – one in three seniors say they are lonely and for teens, it’s one in two.
Narrated by Annabel Crabb, this season a group of seniors aged from 71-94 years old who live in a retirement village meet a group of local teenagers, aged between 14 and 16 years old.
Although the seniors live in close proximity, they are suffering from loneliness, isolation and depression.
The teenagers are also navigating a difficult time of life, as they struggle to develop their independence and self-worth.
Together they will participate in a series of activities to learn more about each other, challenge the way they think, and break down agist beliefs in both groups. In the process they will forge lifelong connections and build a closer community at the village.
A former French teacher who retrained to become a special education teacher, Annelise is friendly and generous to all, but seems to have trouble making friends. Her husband died 23 years ago, and having committed all her time to that relationship, she now finds herself alone. One of her biggest regrets was not having children of her own, as she now does not have any grandchildren. Having limited to no contact with the youth of today, while taking part in this experiment, she doesn’t think she will “understand them”. The fittest and most active of our seniors, she keeps her mind and body young by doing yoga often and seeing a personal trainer twice a week. Annelise’s hope for the program is to find a family she can be part of.
Married for 52 years, Dale met her husband at a community dance centre, marrying him at 19 years old. She is a proud mother of two sons with a granddaughter who visits her often. A retired nurse, Dale is a diehard NRL South Sydney Rabbitohs fan who never misses a match – she even has a huge tattoo of the Bunnies logo on her forearm! Dale has a vision impairment which is progressively getting worse. She’s currently classed as legally blind and gets around with a cane. She’s had to give up a lot of the things she used to love doing including knitting, crochet, art, reading and writing poetry. She is most sad about no longer being able to craft or write creatively. However, she’s excited to take part in the program saying she hopes she can help the teens to have “confidence in themselves”. If she can help them do that, it would fill her with joy.
Dave is a fun-loving character who’s quite the larrikin, being one of ourmost energetic seniors. An engineer by trade, he only retired eight years ago at age 72. He loved his job and misses the teamwork involved in “using your brain to design things and make a difference to society”. He misses the daily sense of purpose and the deadlines working gives you, often now finding himself hanging around the house and getting in the way of his wife, Janice. A keen musician, he was in a band in London in the 60’s and loves to dance, with the Foxtrot and the Waltz being his favourites. Giving everything a go, he says “I can dance to anything with a beat, like Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’”. Having moved to the retirement village only eight months ago, he’s still finding his feet and friends. He’s hoping this program will not only get him out and about meeting new people his own age but allow him to mentor the teens who may need some direction in life, and hopefully keep them off their phones!
Our oldest senior, David, feels lonely most of the time, but sometimes social media is a great place to be – on his recent birthday, he spent it alone but said he “got 200 messages on Facebook!”. David has been married twice and has two children, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren; however, they all live out of Sydney, so he doesn’t see them as regularly as he’d like. With a chipper personality and a cheeky sense of humour, David is an excellent storyteller with a curious mind. A former accountant in the Air Force, he loves to learn and is not giving up on life anytime soon. He still does daily crosswords, puzzles, reads and goes to the bowling club to watch the bowls. The only thing holding him back is a concern about falling which has restricted his physical activities and walking, but otherwise David will tackle this experiment head on, with positive intentions and lots of heart.
Having lost the love of his life, his wife Joan of 64 years, on Christmas Day two years ago to dementia, John finds life now very lonely and still says goodnight to Joan every night before he goes to bed. Caring for her right up until the end, he feels the loneliness every day, saying, “I sit in the armchair sometimes watching something on the telly and I suddenly turn around and say – what did you think of that? But there’s no one there”. John had a tough childhood in Dagenham, UK, where he was raised by his single mother from the age of two after his father left the family. At age 12, his school was bombed during WWII, which saw him start work in a sawmill, leading him to a job in the merchant navy working as a bosun on a freighter. Moving recently to the retirement village, John has only two friends in the complex. This program is John’s chance to jump out of his comfort zone and engage with other seniors and hopefully connect with teenagers, who he says he doesn’t really know much about – but he remains sceptical about any positive outcomes.
Lorraine has felt depressed since her husband of 54 years, Tom, was put in an aged care facility with dementia. She now must limit her visits to once a week for her own well-being, as Tom doesn’t know who she is and that is mentally tough for Lorraine. She sees a psychologist to help with her depression but she’s lacking motivation to get up and go on a daily basis, saying, “I’m lonely in the unit and I have to always have the TV on to have the noise. Most meals you have on your own and I don’t like cooking for one”. She’s excited for the program, as it will be a great distraction and huge motivation for her. Her typical day involves. mundane activities like watching TV, doing the washing, watering plants, and going to the shops. She is ready to make a difference with the teenagers who she feels sorry for and would love to “do something worthwhile.”
A former nun, Maz left the convent as she was attracted to men. Marrying for love, she had a wonderful 28 years together with her first love until he passed. After meeting another man at the retirement village, they lived happily in each other’s lives for 10 years prior to his recent death. She has no children of her own, but two adult stepchildren. After her latest partners death, she’s been faced with severe depression and when it’s really bad, she stays at home for days at a time, not venturing out at all. She is ready to tackle this experiment, hoping to meet new people and build a new support circle. Having no contact with teenagers herself, she thinks she can offer them “life experience, a sense of humour and a positive outlook”. A typical ‘grandma’, Maz is wise yet compassionate. While she’s a bit of a wallflower, she’s very approachable, open, and friendly. She is hoping to make a special connection with a teen.
Our oldest female senior, Pat, is not slowing down anytime soon. She’s a very active 94-year-old, who still does gardening, washing, reading, snooker, shuttle board and crochet. Living alone, Pat is a straight shooter who calls a spade a spade. When Pat was young, conversations were key in relationships – but now she just sees teenagers on their phones not communicating in real life. She doesn’t think she could offer the teens much, because it’s a generation she “doesn’t know anything about”, and they are “a bit of a mystery” to her, but she has read in the newspapers that teenagers are troublemakers and lazy. Pat doesn’t believe she could learn anything from the teens, but she’s willing to give it a go. Let’s see if the teenagers can change her opinion!
Richard has been paralysed since birth, born with a hemiplegia that affects his face, arm and leg. Growing up in the country, Richard never really had any close friends, finding that his disability prevented him from doing daily things with kids his own age. Never married, he has no children and zero interaction with the teens of today. With an attitude of ‘never give up’, Richard is friendly, caring, polite and sensitive. He doesn’t know if he’s looking for a friendship from the experiment, saying, “it depends on the person, I wouldn’t force it”.
Robert is the perennial jokester of the group – he’s always the most positive in the room and always has people laughing and smiling. Six months ago, Robert’s life shattered around him when his wife of 30 years developed Alzheimer’s. It’s now gotten so bad she is unable to live with him, and he can only visit her three times a week. On her good days, she still has her spark, but on her bad days, she has no idea who he is and that’s the real struggle. He’s now learning to do life alone, but he does manage to play lawn bowls which he enjoys for the focus and commitment.
Abi has always been a shy girl, but after COVID-19 hit, it worsened, and she now gets anxious when interacting with people and the world postpandemic. Despite the support of her close-knit family and friends, she feels lonely, and it stops her from venturing out. “I want to do stuff, but there is something that is stopping me. I’m scared, tired and drained.” A lover of music and a Taylor Swift fan, she also enjoys cooking and art, finding such practical activities calming. The one thing she hopes the show will do is give her more confidence and skills to interact with people, and she’d love the opportunity to have a grandparent figure in her life, as her own grandparents live far away. Abi says, “I’d love to learn things from older people that you can’t learn on the internet.”
Born in the Philippines, Addison and his single mum now live in Sydney. With little extended family in Australia, he has no grandparents or ‘older’ people in his life. Softly spoken and low in confidence, Addison is one of the most compassionate, gentle, kind, and caring teens in the group. He gets extremely nervous when talking and taking part in the program, and he wants to try and overcome this fear, gaining the confidence he knows is deep within. Addison has a love-hate relationship with gaming – he can play up to six hours in one sitting! He has chronic asthma which keeps him inside the house a lot, but he’s trying to motivate himself to get off the couch and spend time outdoors exercising and engaging in the real world – not just the digital one.
Alix has a twin brother and two mums, who love and cherish them. A high achiever, she is a perfectionist who is bubbly and charismatic. She says that being smart is part of her “label”, often worrying about not getting things right and struggling when she feels there’s something she’s not good at. She doesn’t talk to many people about the problems she faces as she doesn’t want to burden anyone with her troubles, but she’d love to find a deep connection with a senior who she can open up to, and just be herself.
Amelie has lived in New Zealand, Europe and now Australia, which means she has many friends across the globe, but misses the tight bonds of close friendships. Amelie is a deep thinker, proudly describing herself as a “nerd”, and is ambitious when it comes to school and her future career. She has strong interests in French, fencing, art and loves a good debate. With her maternal grandparents living in Germany and her paternal grandparents having passed, Amelie welcomes the opportunity to learn from an older person.
Ayden is a bright, caring and deeply emotional teen living with his mum and little brother. Ayden adored his grandmother who lived with his family in their home, until she sadly passed. He was the last person to see her alive, which has had a huge impact on him. Being his favourite person in the world, Ayden misses her daily, still needing to heal from the trauma of her death. He feels he struggles to find connections and purpose in real life; he’s first to admit that he is addicted to his phone, which worries him. A nervous person, Ayden is quite shy, becoming anxious when he’s lost for words. He’s hoping this program will help him gain friendships, as well as confidence and articulation.
Casey is an only child and while very close with their parents, struggles to connect with people, especially other teens. Casey hates the thought of people being bullied, even more when they see it happen. Casey loves music and has a keen passion for Sport Climbing with a goal to represent Australia at the Olympics. Casey is very creative and their favourite subjects at school is visual arts and design and technology. They want to do this program to make a connection with someone outside the family who they can learn and talk to about anything life throws at them, and just be themselves and be accepted the way they are.
A confident young man with a fabulous blonde mullet, Charlie has a deep voice and is rarely without a huge smile on his face! Despite his appearance, he is a highly sensitive, empathetic teen who doesn’t like seeing anyone hurt or bullied, sometimes struggling in group settings. At school he loves woodwork and sport, declaring himself footy mad. Loving both AFL and NRL, Charlie is an avid Sydney Swans and Cronulla Sharks fan. He spends his home time divided between mum and dad’s houses and has two older tradie brothers. He would love to find a connection with a Senior, as he doesn’t have much interaction with the older generation.
Jayden and his sister Bianca were born in Sydney, but his whole extended family are in Rwanda and Burundi. He has one grandparent remaining in Burundi who he saw recently, however he misses him terribly and wants to go back and visit sooner rather than later. With school, he wants to push himself a little bit more to be more independent and proactive with his application and study. A sports nut, particularly for basketball and soccer, his plan once he leaves school is to become a sports journalist.
Tom’s maternal grandparents lived with him until his grandfather passed away when Tom was six. Noting that his grandfather was probably the biggest influence in his life to date, Tom was particularly close to him, spending every afternoon together. Since Year 8, Tom hasn’t been picked on after growing quite tall, but feels triggered when he sees other kids at school get bullied. He’s been shifting his focus more on school and his grades have been picking up, which he’s thrilled about. Tom also happens to be a mad Billie Eilish fan, with a shrine dedicated to her in his bedroom. He’s doing this program in the hopes he can gain a little wisdom from the older generation.
Born in India, Vya identifies as an Indian-Australian and is proud of her culture and identity. Warm, bubbly, and charismatic, she dreams of becoming an actress. Despite coming across as effervescent and enthusiastic, Vya struggles with overthinking everything – from school and friendships to her future. She feels constantly scared, fearing the worst. Once she gets consumed by her thoughts, she struggles to pull herself out of them. She’s agreed to take part in this experiment in the hopes she can connect with the seniors and have someone to talk to about the pressures of the future.
Will de Lima Teacher / Facilitator
Professor Sue Kurrle / Aged Health Care Expert
Dr Stephanie Ward BMed FRACP MPH / Geriatrician
Dr. Sophie Li / Clinical Psychologist
Van Marinos / Exercise Scientist – Episode 4
8:30pm Tuesday on ABC.