How young people are stopping loneliness in our care homes
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Loneliness affects a lot of elderly people in our community. A Norfolk-based charity is using friendships with schoolchildren to ease its impact. Sophie Skyring reports.
Ruby Jennings from Taverham is 10 years old and attends Drayton Junior School.
She is a junior ambassador for charity Friend in Deed, which helps form intergenerational friendships between children and care home residents.
“It makes you feel so special, and makes a difference in your life and the residents' lives,” she said.
Ruby attended a cake making session at Badgers Wood care home, in Drayton, two years ago during the summer holidays and then continued to attend the events there, and started to visit the care home after school.
Securing the maximum amount of funding from the Alec Dickson Trust, Ruby has been able to run activities allowing for even more intergenerational friendships to be formed.
Ruby said: "My favourite activities have been a tea party which I did with my class for intergenerational friendships and we also did bag making which was inspired by William Morris."
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She added: "I’ve got some money left so I might spend that on another cupcake making activity in the summer holidays.’
Claire Chilvers, health and social care coordinator at Badgers Wood, said: “Ruby’s activities make such a huge impact on our residents' lives.”
She added: “It is so rewarding as a care provider to see their faces light up, and to see the connection between the children and the residents.”
Maurice Hovells, a care home resident, said: “It is so wonderful that we have such a high level of intergenerational input here at Badgers Wood.
"The Friend In Deed Project and everything Ruby has done for us with her grant make such a difference to our lives.
"We all love to see the children, hear their chatter and laughter, and I feel blessed that we can be part of their lives, as much as they are part of ours. Thank you on behalf of all the residents that live here.”
Ms Chilvers added: “Befriending relationships have such positive effects on both sides - it builds a level of understanding, where those relationships may not ordinarily have the opportunity to develop.”
Elsewhere, Emily Powley, from Horsford, has two children who are also involved in Friend in Deed, Vinnie, three, and Oliver, four.
“Oliver and Vinnie love going to Chiswick House, they often take their toys and show them to the residents," she said.
She added: “It has done so much for my children's confidence, and it’s taught them to have a huge amount of respect for elderly people. I also think it helps the elderly people, it makes them happy.”
Sophie Todd, 20 and from Norwich, has been involved in the charity for three or four years.
She said: “I did it as part of my community service for sixth form, I would go and sing to the residents, I also enjoyed printing the lyrics and handing them out so that the residents were able to join in with the songs.
“For anyone thinking about being a part of it I would say go for it, you’ve got nothing to lose. They often have entertainment rotas where there have bingo or art sessions, just go and say hello, join in, you won’t regret it.”
Kelly Lindsay, the director of the charity, said "Everything that we do at Friend in Deed focuses on showing kindness and we truly believe that we can make the world a happier and kinder place one conversation, one action and one community at a time."
She added: "Intergenerational friendships are a brilliant way for younger people to learn about empathy, tolerance and kindness. If children learn about these things at as young an age as possible, they are likely to be kind to everyone around them including other children.
"Our older friends in care homes still have so much to offer, we need to ensure that they are still included in our communities, have purpose and do not feel isolated."