Many children in today’s world have little contact with older people and vice versa in a care home. Gillian Moncaster, who works as one of our trainers, has done projects both in schools and with the Brownies and in care homes, and shares of her experiences of bringing both children and residents together.
When working with young people, the approach I took was to find a common ground to get them talking, rather than just taking a class or group into the homes, when they would often just stare at each other.
One way to give these sessions a focus is to get everyone to work together to develop their own life story boards. The Brownies or school children involved used photos from magazines, as well photos of their families and also their own drawings; while the activity coordinator worked with residents to develop simple one page profiles for the residents. We then took the children in to the care home and they talked to residents about their life stories and the residents compared their profiles to that of the children.
It’s important to also tap into the children’s innate capacity for fun. I usually take my parachute and balls and toys for them to play with together and they love it.
Another idea is to pick a theme and get everyone talking about it. With a recent group I have worked with, I used lots of information on Chester Zoo (which I got from their website) and added a bit about conservation in to it. We had some discussion sessions beforehand, and then arranged a trip to Chester Zoo, where old and young could look for the animal they’d been studying. None of the children had previously been to the zoo – so it meant the residents and the children were discovering it together for the first time. The residents also shared their memories of the now closed Belle View Zoo which many of them had happy memories of residents remembered it.
I have also developed a ‘Dignity in Care’ badge for the Brownies, but any work on dignity has real merit for everyone involved. We start the sessions by talking about what dignity means, and how you can show respect to people in different ways. Then we might look at Dignity logo – a daisy – a make a daisy chain, where everyone in the care home and school group talks about what dignity means to them. You can also do role play and improvisation around dignity issues, make daisy-themed gifts for residents, or encourage children to create a ‘daisy diary’ or a ‘daisy scrapbook’, demonstrationing instances of dignity and respect in their weekly lives.