It feels like a long forgotten memory not but until relatively recently it was ‘summer’. What can only be described as a particularly drab and grey August, also saw the screening of Channel 4’s Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds (a title which I originally mistook for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children).
Inspired by a scheme that has run in the US for the past 25 years, this programme featured the first British inter-generational experiment to focus on the initiative’s impact on the older group. Something we can certainly learn from in our campaigns!
The programme saw 10 four-year olds visit St Monica’s retirement home in Bristol every day over six weeks to spend time with a group of elderly residents. Together, they took part in activities created to benefit both generations, from playing memory games and doing movement-based tasks to raising a brood of ducklings.
What it really highlighted to me was the dark truth, that social isolation within the UK’s aging population is a serious issue. According to Age UK, there are 1.2 million older people in the UK who suffer from chronic loneliness, while a heartbreaking 3.9 million say that the television is their main form of company. Leading the programme’s team of geriatric specialists, Malcolm Johnson aimed to reduce the levels of depression in St Monica’s residents. This was well and truly achieved. Sceptic Hamish, who initially states the project will be a “total disaster”, throws himself into a game of sleeping lions undeterred by his artificial leg, while 77 year old Zina states, “to find a child’s hand in yours is one of the most moving things that can happen to you”.
It’s exciting to see how more and more educators are nurturing the relationship between children and the elderly. It feels there’s a real opportunity here and we’ve seen instances of this happening across the UK.
We particularly liked hearing about how residents at Methven House Nursing Home in Scotland are now receiving regular visits from a nearby nursery, as well as a Worcestershire primary school launching a pen pal scheme between two local care homes and year 4 pupils. The scheme is part of Franche Primary School’s creative writing curriculum and seeks to “include intergenerational activities” in the community, creating “special connections between the two generations”.
I definitely feel visits and correspondences between pupils and care homes should be encouraged in both primary and secondary schools. As shown by Franche Primary school, not only can they play a part in the English curriculum, they can also fit into a variety of different subjects, like history, geography, PSHE and so on. By including the elderly in parts of the school curriculum, we can ensure that the relationship between the old and the young continues to strengthen, enriching the lives of both generations. Who wouldn’t want that?