Bridg­ing the gap

re­tire­ment home res­i­dents Hamish and Zina re­veal how their lives were changed by a group of pre-school­ers

TV Times - - Real Life - Han­nah Davies

Old Peo­ple’s Home for 4 Year Olds

Tues, wed / C4 / 9.00Pm

End­less naps, watch­ing TV and bore­dom are what we of­ten as­so­ciate with liv­ing in a re­tire­ment home. But C4’s new doc­u­men­tary, Old Peo­ple’s Home for 4 Year Olds, aims to change that.

Based on a scheme run­ning in Amer­ica, the two-part se­ries turns St Mon­ica’s re­tire­ment vil­lage in Bris­tol into a pre-school nurs­ery – with 10 four-year-olds shar­ing their lives with 11 el­derly res­i­dents.

With many older peo­ple suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion and lone­li­ness, the aim is to see if the chil­dren’s pres­ence bring a lit­tle joy back into their lives. Two of the show’s stars, Hamish Hall, 89, and Zina Wil­son, 77, tell us more…

What’s your ex­pe­ri­ence of an old peo­ple’s home? Zina: It’s been a huge change for me. My hus­band, Bernard, has de­men­tia, so af­ter we’d moved in, I just thought, ‘Now what?’ The en­ter­tain­ment wasn’t re­ally for me – I’m not one for bingo or cro­quet – and I felt quite de­pressed for a while. Also, be­ing in a home feels like wait­ing to die! Hamish: I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that, while I have a de­cent brain, my skele­ton is re­belling. It means I spend a lot of time read­ing the news­pa­per!

So, what did you think of the idea of 10 ac­tive four-year-olds dis­rupt­ing your lives?

Zina: I thought it sounded fan­tas­tic. I didn’t want to turn into one of these self-cen­tred oldies, who think the whole world re­volves around their ail­ments, griefs and dis­ap­point­ments. I hoped that hav­ing the chil­dren here would cheer me up – and it did! Hamish: Ac­tu­ally, I thought it was go­ing to be a dis­as­ter. I’ve had an ar­ti­fi­cial leg for 75 years, af­ter I was run over when I was 14, so I didn’t think I would be able to get down on my hands and knees and play.

You both strug­gled to join in at first. Why was that?

Zina: Chil­dren are very ob­ser­vant. Some­body who looks de­pressed isn’t the sort of per­son you’d want to jump in the arms of. But you can’t help but get swept along with their joy and en­thu­si­asm. Hamish: As a bach­e­lor, I haven’t had much to do with four-year-olds, other than years ago when my nieces and neph­ews were small. I sup­pose I was a bit re­luc­tant to en­ter into the spirit of it at first. But be­fore long you were both join­ing in with the games and ac­tiv­i­ties, like sleep­ing lions… Hamish: Well, with sleep­ing lions, the chil­dren wanted to play and I felt I could get down onto the floor with­out any great dif­fi­culty! I also formed a bond with Mil­lie and Eva, who were de­light­ful. These days, I never see any­thing new, so the whole thing was fas­ci­nat­ing!

Zina: I agree! Be­ing around the chil­dren also sparked mem­o­ries of when my own chil­dren were young, which was a very happy time for me. I’d for­got­ten how find­ing a child’s hand in yours is one of the most mov­ing things that can hap­pen to you as an adult.

Has the ex­pe­ri­ence changed you? Hamish: Cer­tainly! I think we all missed the chil­dren af­ter they left – there was a gap in our lives. It’s nice to know there can be new ex­pe­ri­ences in life, even at my age! Zina: It did me a lot of good, too. I re­alised I had to stop sit­ting around moan­ing. I’ve since joined a choir, or­gan­ised an art class and I’m go­ing to be col­lect­ing a friend’s chil­dren from school. I’ve got my life back!

I thought it was go­ing to be a dis­as­ter Hamish, 89

Take a break: Hamish has tea with Eva and Mil­lie

Story time: Zina reads to Mil­lie and Eva

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