El­derly cheer easy as ABC

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

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.

PHOTO: DAVID UN­WIN/FAIR­FAX NZ

Jay­den Mazhambe. 4, helps Fay Horne en­joy the para­chute party.

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