A unique social enterprise café on Victoria’s surf coast has become a thriving community hub for aged care residents, trainees with disability, and young customers.

Star Café opened in December 2022 at Star of the Sea aged care residence in Torquay. Run by for-purpose aged and disability services provider VMCH, the café provides people with disability work experience, and some café culture and connections for older residents and families.

Café coordinator Cathy Rundle said six months on, the café is delivering on both of these, and more.

“We are delighted the local community has embraced the café, which has become a meeting place for young families, visiting grandchildren and great-grandchildren of residents,” she said. “A kids’ corner with colouring books, puzzles, games and toys, and child–friendly dining options has become big drawcards.”

Having witnessed beautiful connections between aged care residents, younger trainees, and visiting children, Rundle and aged care staff recently organised a special school holiday activity focused on inclusion for all ages. Residents, trainees and children enjoyed a fun afternoon of bingo, balloon exercise, party food and face painting.

“Everyone had an absolute ball,” she said. “Our trainees are already forming friendships with residents and their families, and the residents’ faces light up when they are around the little ones, it’s beautiful to witness.”

Star of the Sea aged care lifestyle coordinator Jen Cotsopolous agreed. “Residents reminisced about their childhoods and bonded with the children. The emotional, physical, recreational and mental benefits of the intergenerational activities were plain to see.”

Resident June Clarke, (pictured with trainee Kim Mahony), described the event as “wonderful”. “I am looking forward to next time,” she said.

Lindy-Joy one of nine trainees with disability currently working at the café, building on food prep, money handling and customer service skills, is on her pathway to potentially finding paid employment. She said the inclusion day was “lots of fun” and she loved winning bingo.

According to Rundle, the future of the café looks bright, with many exciting initiatives, including more intergenerational inclusion days planned.

“We have connected with several mums’ groups and local charity Geelong Mums and set up a donation collection point at the café where people can leave their pre-loved baby items. Hosting kids’ parties is also on the cards, and we have the support of the local primary school who have used us for catering.”

Photo: Resident Beryl Allen with Mia