After nine years in the works Wellington's Maranatha Gunyah centre is ready to open.
The centre held a community open day at the weekend. More than 350 people walked through the brand new centre in what chairman Terry Frost described as a "festive gathering".
Maranatha Gunyah is Australia's first purpose-built centre to offer intergenerational care and learning.
When its doors open on October 12 there will be between 40 and 50 children at the centre - which can accommodate 68 - and 12 staff members.
The child care facilities will share the site with Maranatha House aged care facility.
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Mr Frost said for about an hour and a half each day, elderly residents and their carers will have the opportunity to take part in activities with the children such as painting or storytelling.
In the afternoons they can also sit in the covered veranda area and watch the young residents play.
"The initial idea came from my dad who was in a dementia ward. He always loved children and when he got into the really bad stages of dementia he used to love my grandchildren coming and visiting him. A couple of people around him, who he became friendly with in the centre, their eyes just lit up [when the children visited]," Mr Frost said.
"So I thought what is missing from aged care residential is children."
Mr Frost spent years researching other intergenerational centres in the United Kingdom and the United States. But it was the television program Old People's Home for Four Year Olds that cemented the idea.
"The elderly really light up when children are around. This gives them that added dimension of helping with depression and boredom," Mr Frost said.
"It improves their quality of life. And I think if we can do anything to improve the quality of life of people in residential care than I think we're doing our job."
Resources like the kitchen as well as come of the staff, like the cleaners and groundspeople, will be shared between the two facilities.
"It's definitely a growing movement and I think, to me personally, all the research that I'm getting from here and overseas, if we can get this up and running in the correct way that we want, it'll be a game-changer for both aged care and child care," Mr Frost said.
The aged care residents are already excited about the young people coming to the facility, the chairman said.
"A lot of them came over with their walkers and their wheelchairs [at the weekend]. One of them actually came over in a hospital bed," Mr Frost said.
The intergenerational activities have been designed to ensure everyone can participate, but due to the "beast in the room" as Mr Frost calls COVID-19, the elderly residents will not be able to join in as envisaged this year.
After about 40 weeks of construction, Saturday's community open day was the first time most of the community were able to see inside the state-of-the-art facility.
Mr Frost said the feedback was "phenomenal".
The majority of work has been undertaken by Wellington tradespeople, including some Mr Frost taught.
"It's so satisfying to say 'well look, this was built by Wellington tradies whom I had personal, close contact with'," he said.
While the first students will be welcomed on October 12, the official opening of the centre is February 19 next year to coincide with the 33rd anniversary of Maranatha House opening.