As a result of seeing the developing confidence and relationships between the children and the older generation, myself and my partner Bridgit Brown, discussed incorporating a visit to my great-grandmother each fortnight. We wanted to develop the children’s understanding of others and their needs, as well as to support my great-grandmother and eradicate feelings of isolation and loneliness that is only too common in our elderly today.
We have now been visiting my great-grandmother fortnightly for the past 5 months. Before beginning the visits we spoke to the parents of the children and proposed the idea, talking about the benefits for both the children and my great-grandmother.
We visited my great-grandmother’s flat in an assisted living block together without the children initially, to risk assess and remove any potential hazards.
Each time we visit, we always take something to give to ‘Nanny Beat’ as the children affectionately call her; whether it be flowers, her favourite chocolate or a picture.
The children will have their morning snack with Nanny Beat whilst telling her about our week so far. The children love looking at the photos on the wall (particularly spotting photos of me as a baby!). We play games with Nanny Beat, the younger children particularly like playing peekaboo whilst the over two’s use props from Nanny Beat’s flat to try and engage her in their role play (using cardboard tubes as telescopes for example). They also love to showcase any new skills we’ve learned since our last visit such as putting on our own coats and shoes, taking off our shoes or new words we’ve learned.
The change in my great-grandmother when the children are present is phenomenal, she is happy, confident, talkative and positive. Even more incredibly, as with any person with Alzheimer’s, her memory lapses frequently, regularly forgetting family members names/faces. However, every time the children visit she recognises each one as individuals, always pointing out and talking about key features about each child which is both fascinating and heart-warming to see.
Similarly, watching how patient, caring and affectionate the children are to ‘Nanny Beat’ is truly wonderful. Without any instruction or guidance, the children automatically communicate affectionately, holding hands with Nanny Beat as they speak to her and giving her a hug to say hello and goodbye. Even our youngest children (18 months old) show increased concern, care and compassion each time we visit which is truly heartwarming to see in children so young.
Our visits to ‘Nanny Beat’ are so beneficial for the children, teaching them about caring for others, particularly our older generation, as well as teaching them about being part of a wider community beyond our setting, and mixing with people they may never have otherwise encountered. We have recently begun the process of speaking to care homes and day centres in the local area to see if we can factor in a visit to them too. We hope that the children will begin to interact with groups of elderly people, supporting and developing their understanding, knowledge even further. In addition, providing the older generation with some quality time interacting and learning with the children.
The children adore our visits just as much as Nanny Beat does, I can’t stress enough how beneficial these visits are to both the parties involved and we have seen first-hand the positive impact it has on the elderly, particularly those who have Alzheimer’s/Dementia.
If you are in a position to do so, I would highly recommend reaching out to your local care home and arranging a visit.
Read our previous blog 'Joining the generations'.