Elderly cheer easy as ABC
Each Wednesday afternoon, a group of pre-schoolers from ABC childcare centre in Russell St, visit their elderly neighbours.
Directly across the road is the Willard Rest Home, though the children and their teachers don’t take the direct route - they use the pedestrian crossing down the street - but once inside the Presbyterian Support Enliven facility, they make a beeline for the lounge.
When the children arrive, it’s ‘parachute party time’. Out come soft plastic balls and a multicoloured parachute.
Any rules about not throwing balls inside are temporarily suspended. Residents grab hold of the ‘chute and shake it up and down while the laughing children clamber underneath and the balls bounce off the canopy.
It’s a visit resident Tess Apperley doesn’t like missing.
‘‘I love the kids,’’ Apperley said grabbing hold of the parachute.
The fun is infectious. Childcare teachers, rest home staff and residents respond with wide grins.
The children then serenade their elders with action songs - Ring-o-ring-o-rosies and Incy Wincy Spider among them.
‘‘They had those songs in my day,’’ said Joan Futcher , who recalled her own school days in Napier.
The weekly visits were arranged late last year by ABC preschool teacher Joy Thompson.
‘‘The children get very excited about going and are asking days before if it is time to go yet.
‘‘Staff at Willard Home have told us how delighted the residents are when we come to visit, and how just one visit from the children can extend residents’ lives by at least a month.’’
The children have created their own special garden at the home, and have their own picture wall in the corridor. Thompson said it had been marvellous for their self-confidence.
Facility manager Christine Tester said there was a longstanding association with children’s visits. Pupils from next door Russell Street School had been turning up regularly since before she arrived 11 years ago.
‘‘50 years ago, before it was a rest home, Willard was a Presbyterian Social Services children’s home, and those children attended Russell Street. We’ve had a couple of residents here who were once residents of the children’s home,’’ Tester said.
Jayden Mazhambe. 4, helps Fay Horne enjoy the parachute party.