Olive Tree Preschoolers Brighten Days at Somervale Retirement Village ♡

Olive Tree Preschoolers Brighten Days at Somervale Retirement Village ♡

What happens when an early childhood centre and a retirement village are across the road from one another?  Nothing at all – unless someone sees the possibilities and takes action. Once they do, that’s when the magic happens….singing, high-fives, special bonds and smiles all round.


In 2012, Diane McLaughlin, Team-Leader and Diversional Therapist at Metlifecare’s Somervale retirement village on Gloucester Road in Bayfair, Mount Maunganui, crossed the street to speak to Philip Brickell, the Head teacher at Olive Tree Education and Care.

“She suggested some sort of on-going relationship between our early childhood centre and Somervale,” says Philip.  “She was thinking particularly of residents in the High Care unit who were often lonely with family far away, or without the time to visit very much.”

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With a group of young children, many of whom do not have grandparents living locally, only steps away it seemed like a wonderful opportunity for true community connection.  “It fits with what we are about as a centre,” says Philip. “As a Christian centre we believe children need to learn to love themselves and know they are valued, but that it is equally important to learn to love those around them.”

IMG_8308Olive Tree teacher, Shelley McGuinness has overseen the evolving relationship.  “I think it’s a fantastic idea,” says Shelley.

“Children have got so much energy and happiness to offer the elderly and the elderly have got the time and the patience to offer the children. We are lucky to be just across the road from one another.”

Shelley has a personal connection to Somervale as her own mother lived there until she passed away.  “When I went and saw my mum and took my kids, I saw how much that perked her day up,” says Shelley.

“Not many of the residents have family and friends locally, or if they do they don’t have a lot of visits. Families are so busy these days.”

Shelley adds: “Somervale are really good. They run a lot of programmes to keep the residents entertained. Still, they are more than willing to have us interrupt their whole programme  because the kids bring a smile to everyone’s face!”


The Olive Tree children make a special visit to Somervale each time a resident has a birthday.  The children make a birthday card and wrap up some chocolates in a little silk bag and take it over to them.   They gather around and sing Happy Birthday and sometimes a few extra songs.  Shelley says that sometimes the residents will return the favour.  “There is one lady who used to be an opera singer and she sings ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to the children.” smiles Shelley.

Shelley adds: “The feedback from the staff is that the residents just love the visits from the children, they absolutely love it. Sometimes the children will give the residents a hug, but more often there will be lots of high fives. It brings tears to my eyes every time I go there, because the connection is so loving.  It’s really amazing.”


Part of the learning curriculum at Olive Tree Education and Care is building connections within the community.  Shelley says the connection with Somervale is a very authentic and meaningful way for children to learn these values.


“The children are learning respectful relationships with the elderly,” says Shelley. ” They are learning a lot about compassion – about what happens when we grow old.”

 “After they come back from a visit to Somervale the children are jumping with excitement and they feel really proud of themselves for making people happy. They feel really good about what they are doing.”

The next step in this unfolding relationship is to host the Olive Tree Bike Days on Somervale grounds.  “They have a path out the back,” says Shelley. “In the warmer weather, the staff will put chairs outside and have the residents sit outside in the fresh air for an hour and watch the kids ride up and down.


“It’s the most simple thing. To most of us in the busy middle of our lives it seems like nothing, but young children and the elderly get so much out of it.”

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At Olive Tree, Education and Care in Bayfair Mount Maunganui, you’ll find happy children in a nurturing environment, enjoying genuine relationships with caring teachers who facilitate creative play and quality learning experiences.

Our centre is led by a male head-teacher who facilitates a fun learning programme where boys can be boys and girls can do anything! Parents love the spacious and caring babies and toddlers unit. We care for children aged 6 months – 5 years.


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About the Author

Our blog stories are created by members of the Bethlehem Early Learning Centres team. We we hope you enjoy reading them! www.belc.school.nz