Pingelly Project Inspired by ABC Show Bridges Generations

Published on:
Wednesday, 21 June, 2023

When Pingelly stalwart Peter Narducci got an email asking if he wanted to go back to school this year, he didn’t give it a second thought.

For more than seven decades Mr Narducci has lived and breathed Pingelly and, through the Shire’s Age is Just a Number program, he saw an opportunity to share his life with the region’s kids.

The program, inspired by the ABC’s Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, saw 10 seniors and a class of 20 school children come together for a term to hang out and learn from each other.

Highlighting the importance of the program, Shire of Pingelly Community Development Officer Ellen Cook said it had even saved one of the elderly participants’ lives.

“The program has given them a reason to push on, a feeling of self-worth,” she said.

“Studies have shown that seniors who interact with children on a regular basis tend to live happier and healthier lives whilst also adding extra years onto their life.

“Many of our seniors in Pingelly have either no grandchildren or their grandchildren live further away (Perth), this program allowed them to learn firsthand exactly what 5- and 6-year-olds are like, and how unique and amazing they can be, whilst also changing their own mental and physical health without realising it.

“For the children and parents, this program allowed them to experience empathy and happiness with the seniors, for the kids to understand how different it was for the seniors compared to how it is now.

“Both Biggies and Smalls have made a friendship like no other, a safe friend in the community.”

Pingelly Primary School pre-primary and year one teacher Erin Richardson said the students immediately embraced their biggies.

“It was pretty cute – when they came in on the Mondays the kids’ eyes would lock on their biggie and they couldn’t wait to get off the mat and give their biggies a hug,” she said.

“Some of these kids don’t have elderly people in their lives. (This gives them) the conversations, the communication, different perspectives.

“Some of the biggies now… sit on the outer of a community they have been active in for many years, so this is bringing them back into it and giving them a new sense of worth.”

While the first run of the program has wrapped up, the interactions have carried on.

Many of the biggies now volunteer at the school in ways such as helping build a vegetable garden, or holding reading classes, and a pen pal system has been established to help the school kids with their language skills.

Plans to establish a permanent community garden for the two groups to share are also in the works.

This year’s program was funded through a $5,000 grant from Holyoake.

With the program proving such a success, the Shire of Pingelly has decided to fund it for a further three years.

Shire CEO Andrew Dover said programs like this helped build community cohesion.

“It is a fantastic initiative… that has been very well received by the community, so well received in fact the shire has extended it past the life of the grant for the next three years,” he said.

“There has been a lot of demand by some of the older people in town now this has run that they want to be involved in the next year.”

Ms Cook said the program could be worthwhile for other Local Governments to replicate.

“It doesn’t have to be big or flash, it is all about the communication and relationships,” she said.

“Start with a small budget and work from there.

“Get any local schools or day-cares on board too, they are a great asset to the program.


Peter Narducci is a born-and-bred Pingelly man who has worn just about every hat in town over the past seven decades.

For him, Age is Just a Number was a chance to share his vast experience with – and love of – home with the next generation.

Mr Narducci said the weekly sessions had been an hour-and-a-half of “absolute bliss”.

“Those kids, I have known their parents since they were little tackers – they use to come into our shop to get videos and lollies,” he said.

“If they had this program three times a year I would go back three times without hesitation.

“I came home and said to my wife that has been the best eight to 10 weeks of my life, just because sharing and connecting – you felt as you walked up to school this is going to be a great hour then you walk home and feel twice as happy.”

Mr Narducci found a strong personal connection with his littlie – Harvey – whose great grandfather attended the Narduccis’ wedding.

Pingelly resident of 21 years Jeanette Jeffrey held one of the town’s most important jobs as a local publican.

Now semi-retired, Ms Jeffrey said Age is Just a Number was the first time in three decades she had the time to take part in a community program.

“This was just perfect for me - not having to put up with adults as much, the children give you so much joy,” she said.

“The teacher was wonderful and the group of children she had were inspiring and polite, there was no misbehaviour.

“We went to the park one day which was wonderful, and of course Emma started climbing trees and I had to get her down.

“They make you go into tight places too – they don’t realise you are a biggie and can only do so much – they push you.”

Ms Jeffrey said the program had built trust between participants and families, with parents now feeling safer talking to the biggies about their children.


Eva Cook, 6, Emma Eva, 5, and Sean Dover, 6, were among the class taking part in Age is Just a Number.

The trio said they liked making liquid biscuits (biscuits with icing), doing a treasure hunt and drawing self-portraits with their biggies.

All three are still talking with the biggies as pen pals, and Sean was even lucky enough to get two packets of chocolate eggs for Easter from his biggie.

He said he was sad when the program ended but had already written to his biggie. They all said they want to see their biggies again.

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