Poppa Jim top of the pops

Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013
Poppa Jim Battersby

GOOD PALS: Poppa Jim Battersby with his small friends from Roskill South Kindergarten.

Mosaic
The children created this mosaic for ‘‘Poppa Jim’’ for his 88th birthday.

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An octogenarian's desire to go back to preschool has inspired a wealth of inter-generational relationships.

"Poppa" Jim Battersby, who lives at the Hillsborough Heights Retirement Village, has walked past Roskill South Kindergarten many times over the years.

He couldn't see over the fence, but he could tell by the sounds of children at play that it was the place to be.

"I decided I'd like to go to kindergarten," he says.

Through an intermediary he approached the kindergarten and was duly invited to visit. He's been going there every week since.

"We thought it would be great for our children to interact with an older person," teacher Nadine Priebs says.

"So many of them don't have grandparents living locally and we figured that they would learn a lot from ‘Poppa Jim' as the children now call him. His presence in the kindergarten has been wonderful."

Every Tuesday, Poppa Jim wanders around the playground and interacts with the children at the water-play area and sandpit.

He has joined the children on trips to Ambury Farm and inspired them to take an interest in rock ‘n roll when he came to the disco dressed as Elvis Presley.

While at the kindergarten Mr Battersby celebrated his 88th birthday.

"Yes, there were 88 candles," he says. "But by the time the last few were alight, some of the first-lit candles had burned out, so thankfully I didn't have to do a lot of blowing."

The children's birthday present to Mr Battersby was a mosaic paver they made of him with his walking stick.

More of Mr Battersby's friends from the retirement village now go to the kindergarten to share their skills, patience and time.

"It's a great experience for everyone," Ms Priebs says.

"Children and older people are empowered by what is happening here. The relationships are special and they are learning so much from each other."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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