Talkin’ ’bout all gen­er­a­tions

Char­i­ties hail ground­break­ing ini­tia­tives en­cour­ag­ing nurs­ery young­sters to play with re­tirees

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - NEWS - By Tracey Bryce TRBRYCE@SUNDAYPOST.COM

Lead­ing char­i­ties have thrown their weight be­hind pi­o­neer­ing Scot­tish projects bring­ing to­gether the young and old.

A se­ries of ini­tia­tives are now un­der way mix­ing nurs­ery-age chil­dren with re­tirees for the ben­e­fit of both.

Brian Sloan, Age Scot­land’s chief ex­ec­u­tive said: “These kind of in­ter­gen­er­a­tional links be­tween nurs­eries and care homes are bril­liant and are tremen­dously ben­e­fi­cial to the men­tal and phys­i­cal health of older peo­ple and kids alike.

“We hear won­der­ful sto­ries from par­ents who tell us just how much their kids en­joy the in­ter­ac­tion as well as from older peo­ple who say it gets them more ac­tive and lifts the mood in the room.

“The in­creased ac­tiv­ity of older peo­ple helps to main­tain mus­cle mass which re­duces risks of falls as well as hav­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact on their men­tal health.

“In­ter­gen­er­a­tional ac­tiv­i­ties are a great way to tackle lone­li­ness, par­tic­u­larly among older peo­ple. It is a grow­ing pub­lic health cri­sis in Scot­land and is as bad for some­one as smok­ing 15 cig­a­rettes a day.

“For younger peo­ple, the pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tions with older peo­ple helps to foster bet­ter re­la­tion­ships with oth­ers as they age and im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills.”

Last week, mil­lions of view­ers tuned in to the new se­ries of Old Peo­ple’s Home for Four Year Olds, a doc­u­men­tary that sees a group of loud and ex­cited pre-school­ers swap their nurs­ery for a re­tire­ment home to spend time with el­derly res­i­dents.

The show aims to prove the amaz­ing restora­tive pow­ers for older peo­ple in­ter­act­ing with young­sters, both men­tally and phys­i­cally.

The ben­e­fits of mix­ing old and young have been seen across the globe, with suc­cess­ful schemes in Ja­pan, Aus­tralia, Amer­ica and across Europe.

And Scot­land is also blaz­ing a trail with the first pur­pose-built in­ter­gen­er­a­tional nurs­ery and care home be­ing planned in Fife.

The coun­cil there is aim­ing to bridge the age gap with ground­break­ing plans to in­te­grate a nurs­ery and care home on the same site, which will see the el­derly and young­sters share com­mu­nal spa­ces.

All go­ing well, the cen­tre, which in­cludes a 36-bed res­i­den­tial care home and Early Years Cen­tre joined by a shared space con­tain­ing a cafe, an ac­tiv­ity room and meet­ing and con­fer­ence rooms, will open in Methil by sum­mer 2020.

Clark Gra­ham, Fife Coun­cil’s early years learn­ing of­fi­cer, said: “It’s an ex­cit­ing project. We haven’t started build­ing yet as there’s lots go­ing on with the fine tun­ing, but we can’t wait to see all the hard work come to fruition.” Coun­cil­lor David Gra­ham added: “With peo­ple liv­ing longer we want to en­sure that care sup­ports in­de­pen­dence and pos­i­tive health and well­be­ing. The new fa­cil­i­ties in the care home will en­hance the lives of the res­i­dents to en­joy life as much as they can .” The pur­pose-built fa­cil­ity might be new, but a nurs­ery in Kil­win­ning, Ayr­shire, has been pi­lot­ing the in­ter­gen­er­a­tional idea for al­most a year.

Lit­tle Deers Nurs­ery was orig­i­nally built at Buckred­dan Care Cen­tre 14 years ago to pro­vide child­care for the chil­dren of staff work­ing long hours at the home. Un­til re­cently, there was very lit­tle reg­u­lar in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the two age groups.

But now, twice a week, res­i­dents from the care home are guests of hon­our at Lit­tle Deers, com­ing to sing, dance and gen­er­ally play with the young chil­dren.

The project, called Crocs and Tots, is the brain­child of nurs­ery man­ager Doreen Hear­shaw, who de­cided to in­tro­duce reg­u­lar in­ter­gen­er­a­tional ac­tiv­ity. For­mer pae­di­atric nurse Doreen said: “The chil­dren have al­ways spent time at the care cen­tre, but it was just at oc­ca­sions, like Easter and Christ­mas.

“Re­al­is­ing the ben­e­fits for both age groups, I de­cided to in­tro­duce some­thing a bit more struc­tured – and it re­ally works.

“The kids and older peo­ple have formed some amaz­ing re­la­tion­ships – and it’s def­i­nitely a time in the week that every­one looks for­ward to.”

Doreen believes the scheme has not only in­creased the con­fi­dence of the young­sters, but im­proved the phys­i­cal and men­tal well­be­ing of the el­derly too.

“Chil­dren who find in­ter­ac­tion dif­fi­cult have come out of their shells, and we’ve seen ev­i­dence that it can help with dementia,” she says.

“And res­i­dents from the care home who typ­i­cally aren’t very mo­bile seem to find the en­ergy to get up on their feet and dance with the chil­dren. Age is no bar­rier. Many of the chil­dren have an el­derly res­i­dent who they call their ‘best friend’.” New­byres Nurs­ery in Ed­in­burgh’s Gore­bridge is hop­ing to open Scot­land’s first in­ter­gen­er­a­tional day care cen­tre soon too.

The nurs­ery cur­rently takes chil­dren to the lo­cal care home to play old games like skit­tles, bean­bag toss and jig­saws once a week, but owner Mel Scrim­geour is plan­ning to ex­tend the pro­gramme. Mark Laing, of Alzheimer Scot­land, said: “In­ter­gen­er­a­tional projects can play a vi­tal role in help­ing to raise aware­ness and im­prove un­der­stand­ing of dementia.

“They al­low chil­dren and teenagers to de­velop more in­formed per­spec­tives of what it is like to live with dementia ev­ery day.”

At Lit­tle Deers nurs­ery, Agnes Gil­mour reads to Cooper Mullin, Lewis Gal­loway, Amelia Mitchell and Edie Kelly; and Chan­nel 4 show, above

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