Care homes in Banbury are seeing tangible benefits from inviting nursery children to have fun with residents.
From ‘magic moments’ between the elderly and toddlers to physical and mental improvements, the care homes are raving about the scheme.
And the staff at the nurseries are just as positive about it as children develop empathy and communication skills, as well as combating stigmas about care homes and growing old.
Banbury Heights and Julie Richardson nursing homes, owned by Madeline Taylor, are both keen supporters of the ‘intergenerational’ initiatives.
“It’s all part of wellbeing and making the residents happy and interactive, and making the children happy,” she said.
“The children have a better understanding of oldies and that care homes aren’t the end of the line, they can actually be fun, positive places.
When the children come, the smiles on the residents’ faces are lovely.Care home owner Madeline Taylor
“When the children come, the smiles on the residents’ faces are lovely, and they are gorgeous and totally disinhibited.”
The ‘intergenerational’ schemes have swelled in popularity since Channel 4’s documentary Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds brought the possibilities of mixing old and young to the masses.
Think tank United for All Ages claimed in a report published last month that some of the issues facing the next generation can be tackled through the projects – from poor health, anxiety and loneliness to educational attainment and social mobility.
The researchers found the elderly are less likely to suffer loneliness by playing and reading with children, while the toddlers have better reading and communication skills.
Fostering relationships between old and young was also found to change attitudes towards ageing.
Child First Nursery has been coming to Banbury Heights weekly since November, with multiple sessions including dancing, singing and more.
Plus, some residents have been going to the nursery to read stories to the children.
Senior practitioner at the nursery, Letti Hague, said: “It’s lovely to see the old and young generations mixing together.
“For instance we had a little girl who was very shy, she didn’t want to talk to anybody, but since we’ve been coming here, she’s been so outgoing, she’s doing roly-polys for the elderly and she’s so happy and outgoing.
“So we can really see a difference in the children’s development since we’ve been coming here.
“We just want to bring sunshine into elderly people’s lives and they bring some sunshine into our lives as well.”
‘Magic moments’ at dementia home
Julie Richardson Nursing Home, a dedicated centre for people with dementia, has found the visits from The Close Day Nursery School particularly beneficial.
The children’s lack of inhibitions about dementia means they do not feel awkward about playing with the residents, some of whom cannot speak or walk.
Manager Jayanthi Antony said this gave them a lot of enjoyment and engagement which could sometimes be difficult, as well as improving their mental and physical wellbeing.
“We love having the children here, there are lots of magic moments when the children come and interact with our residents,” she said.
“One resident she was very passive before but now she’s become a lot more interactive and taking part in activities and as a manager I’m so proud to see that.”
The weekly sessions include playing musical instruments and board games, plus building with Lego, drawing and other creative activities.
Jayanthi said the residents are more than happy to get involved with the colouring or puzzles, which builds their communication skills, and stimulates their memories.
Nursery manager Lorraine Wetherill said: “We often leave many of our creative activities with the residents and the children will often be heard saying that they want to leave their drawings and creations with the residents, with some saying, ‘put this up in your bedroom’.
“But most importantly, it’s the life skills that the children are gaining such as empathy for others, self-confidence, communication in different forms, listening and gaining knowledge from the older generation.
“We are extremely proud of the children, it is evident from the smiles on everyone’s faces the pleasure that these visits give to all involved.”
Think tank calls for more schemes
United for All Ages report calls on every nursery and school, every children’s organisation and every local authority to link with older people’s care and housing providers to come together for the next generation.
United for All Ages director Stephen Burke said: “There is no bigger challenge than creating a better future for all our children and young people.
“The scale of the challenge in Britain is massive as the next generation faces a crisis in childhood and beyond – from poverty to mental health, crime to family breakdown, educational attainment to work and housing.
“These issues can be tackled by action nationally and locally, not least by much greater intergenerational interaction between young people and older people.”
For information about United for All Ages, or to read the full report, visit www.unitedforallages.com