With the recent pandemic putting an end to social interaction and aiding in the rise of loneliness and poor mental health, intergenerational initiatives have never felt so important, or closer to home.
Growing Places have been involved with local residential and care homes for the past 10 years, and during this time many wonderful friendships have flourished. We discovered first hand that linking with the older generations had a wonderful two-way impact. Firstly, the care home residents immediately cheered up whenever the children came to visit. They were more prone to try out new activities and many began to open up and interact a lot more.
The staff also noticed how the residents looked forward to it each week, boosting their mood and outlook even when the children weren’t there.
The children also gained so much from their weekly encounters. They were introduced to a completely new situation outside of their usual norm, and experienced a completely different side to life and the world around them.
They learned first-hand the need for respect, tolerance and understanding.
Unfortunately the pandemic made it impossible for the nurseries to continue their weekly visits, but with the help of technology the children were able to say hello to their friends via Zoom calls which proved to be a wonderful way of keeping the connection going. Just prior to the recent lockdown, Growing Places arranged a ‘socially distanced’ visit to local care home, Woodlands, so a few of the children could reunite with their friends and give them a special gift. Wendy Fenn, who has been instrumental in the care home visits, had the idea of designing cushions for the residents featuring fun photographs of their time spent with the children. Wendy Fenn, added:
“I had the cushions made with photo’s depicting the relationships between the residents and the children, to keep the memories alive through these difficult times. I am aware of how much the residents miss seeing the children and we wanted to also say we missed them and are looking forward to when we are able to see them and enjoy fun times again.”
The 3 children who visited, Hope Goodson, Payton Marshall and Caleb Tier all moved on to school in September and hadn’t seen each other since March, or their old friends since last year. Les was a particular favourite resident who made them laugh, and became known as ‘troublemaker’ to the children. He was so pleased to see them through the window and added:
“The cushion made my day, I felt famous having my face in print!”
The residents and carers organised a chocolate hunt in the garden for the children to enjoy, led by volunteer Ian Connors and Activity Coordinator Donna Fallis. The visit was so well received by the residents who loved watching the children through the windows. Jean, aged 89 said:
“We have really missed their faces and mischief!”
Irene, 85 added:
“It was so nice to have them here, even though they couldn’t come in it brightened my day just seeing their faces”
Jackie Warren, Company Director of Growing Places, said
“We are delighted to continue our relationship with the residents and staff at Woodlands throughout the last few months. It is so important to retain the connections they’ve built, through the use of Zoom and Skype. For them to meet again, albeit through the windows, was just delightful, watching the faces of the residents and children was such a joy and a reminder of the importance of staying connected at times like this, for everyone’s well-being”.
Before the children left Woodlands, Ian presented them with one last gift, a box of boats made by the residents from recycled materials. The children were so pleased and left full of energy and conversation. Trips such as this really are so valuable and life affirming for all involved, and are testament to just how important our human connections are. Particularly when it comes to older members of the community, who are at greater risk loneliness and disconnection from the younger generations.
The intergenerational initiative has been such a success and had such a lasting impact on both the residents and children. Woodlands Manager, Nicole Robinson was keen to add, “I cannot express in words the joy and happiness that was shown on all the residents faces. Even our most reserved residents that may not have always chosen to join in with activities were part of this project and it gave us an opportunity to see a very different side to them. It benefited us in more ways than we can express and we are extremely grateful to the nursery children, the staff and parents for this opportunity”
If you would like to help Woodlands in Cowplain or your local care home, donations of care packages are always so well received and always lift the residents spirits. Toiletries, word searches, quiz books, sweets and treats and arts and crafts supplies (particularly for knitting) are always wonderful things to send for the elderly.