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COVID-19 Update from Father Hudsons Care

Coming together, breaking boundaries, building bridges

Doreen and Maya ed

Amid the Covid-19 crisis, this week is the first Intergenerational Week, which highlights work done across the country to bring different generations together, to support and learn from each other.

At Father Hudson’s Care, we believe in bringing people together and breaking down barriers between communities. One such project is Young at Heart in North Staffordshire, which combats social isolation and loneliness faced by older people in the area.

For six years, Young at Heart has organised lunch clubs, social groups, gardening schemes and befriending services to reach people in the community who are isolated. In 2018 Young at Heart began partnering with our Family Support Service to build connections between older people and schools. The initial event – a tea dance – was such a success that the children asked if they could return to the group to spend longer with the people there.

After the event, the Young at Heart team said, “All the older people enjoyed it very much and asked if the children can come back again. They said the children were lovely and very well mannered. The most enjoble thing was seeing everyone in the room, old and young, mingling and dancing. They all had smiles on their faces, which is what it’s all about.”

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Now, two years on from that initial visit, the Young at Heart groups regularly welcome visitors from local primary and senior schools. They get together for lunch, enjoy dancing together to live music, and take part in activities so each generation can learn about the other. The events are a great way of enabling young and old to find out what they have in common, as well as how they are different. Students have also sung at Young at Heart Christmas parties, putting on wonderful shows.

In summer 2019 Cody, a visually impaired student from St John Fisher School in Newcastle-under-Lyme, toured all the Young at Heart groups to sing for them. Family Support Worker, Jane Johnson, had previously arranged for international opera star, Denise Leigh, to meet Cody and encourage her interest in singing.

/media/news/library/04a-family-support-cody.jpgCody wanted to give something back and so Jane and Mark Porter of Young at Heart arranged for her to visit the Fenton group. Jane said, “The audience was so moved the Young at Heart team asked her if she would like to do more.”

The joint work was beneficial for all involved. During the sessions, it was clear to see that she had touched and inspired each and every one of those in attendance. Cody herself gained great confidence and, not to be outdone, Cody’s mum now volunteers with Young at Heart.

When asked why she was doing this she said, “I want to make people happy and show that my disability does not get in the way of me doing anything.

In Coleshill, St Joseph’s Care Home regularly arranges intergenerational activities with local schools.

Children often visit to sing for residents and take part in arts and crafts with them. On one visit, a group of young people enjoyed listening to residents talk about their experiences of the war. They had been learning about World War Two in school, and the residents’ stories really helped bring the learning to life for them.

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Students from Cardinal Newman School in Coventry visited to take residents to Mass, support them at the home and take part in arts and crafts with them. One student and resident really hit it off and spent the afternoon chatting and laughing with each other. The school was due to return in March 2020, but the visit was cancelled in light of the Coronavirus. However, the students sent in a video message wishing the residents a Happy Easter.

In December 2018, Shelley Perryman, manager at St Joseph’s, arranged a collaborative project with neighbouring Child 1st Nursery to benefit both young and old. Since then, every Monday afternoon sees the home’s Terrace Café transformed into a playroom – or, as one resident describes it, “a child’s paradise.”

The children bring toys, puzzles, games, and instruments and happily spend a couple of hours playing games, doing jigsaws and interacting with residents. One member of staff from the home said, “Our residents love it. Each week there are smiles all round.”

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Children serve toy cakes, with one girl making sure every adult in the room receives one. Young and old play instruments together and impromptu singalongs regularly break out, from nursery rhymes to golden oldies, and there is even the occasional dance. One resident says, “It’s the children that make it.”

The benefits for the children and adults are clear to the staff. The nursery staff commented that two girls, who are usually very shy, blossomed in the company of the residents. Similarly, one lady known at St Joseph’s for always being on-the-go happily sits down and plays with the children for an hour.

For another resident it brings back fond memories from her career in a primary school. One lady, a retired nun, initially felt unsure as she didn’t have much experience of being around children, but soon felt happier and more confident interacting with them. Now, she looks forward to the visits.

Residents have also invited the nursery to join them for special events, including a visit from Wings of Freedom – a bird of prey experience. They sat with the residents and listened to the handler talk about the birds. Some were even brave enough to stroke the owls.

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The intergenerational work across Father Hudson’s Care is a wonderful way to bring people together, build connections, break down barriers and offer positive experiences to young and old. We have seen genuine moments of joy and connection and are pleased to enable this work to happen.

We hope to continue providing these rewarding and interactive events in the future.

Intergenerational Week was organised by St Monica Trust - a Bristol-based charity dedicated to the health and well-being of older people.

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