Unique Larbert project between young and old is child’s play

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A heart-warming partnership between pensioners and pre-schoolers has unlocked a new lease of life for young and old.

Inspired by a TV documentary earlier this year, nursery staff at Glenbervie Kindergarden arranged for the children to visit a local care home to see how both age groups could benefit from time together.

Over ten weeks, ten three and four-year-olds sang songs, played games and created lots of noise and mess with residents at Glenbervie Care Home.

And, over the course of the pilot project, which saw the children visit for an hour-and-a-half each week, bonds and friendships developed between young and old.

Kerrie Massie, assistant manager at Glenbervie Kindergarden, said: “It was my favourite part of the week.

“We had some lovely times, including singing songs together, playing and getting messy. The look of happiness on the older people’s faces was lovely.

“They were so happy just watching the children having fun or joining in if they were mobile enough.

“By the fourth week, they were reading stories together and the children were sitting up on residents’ knees.

“It also brought out the child in some of them, definitely. It was lovely, and the children loved being there.

“That’s our first ten-week block finished and the plan was to wait until after Christmas and then take another group of children along.

“But the care home got in touch asking if we could keep it going, so we thought, why wait? So we are starting a new block this week.”

The innovative project was born after Kerrie and several of her colleagues watched the Channel 4 documentary Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Olds.

The programme examined how four and 84-year-olds playing and interacting with each other could improve the health and happiness of both.

Kerrie said: “Myself and a few of the other girls watched it and really enjoyed seeing the benefits it could give to the older people and the children. I spoke to my manager Kelly McCann and we contacted the care home.

“The manager was very keen on the idea and we worked with the care home’s activities co-ordinator.”

The sessions began on August 22 and the first day acted as an introduction to get the children and the care home residents used to each other. In the weeks that followed, the children and the residents used paint and gloop, had a teddy bears’ picnic, enjoyed movies together, worked out puzzles and jigsaws and even had a dance session.

Kerrie said: “We had some lovely moments. At the teddy bears picnic, the residents brought in toys from their childhood and got to reminisce. It was lovely to see friendships develop; at the movie day, one of the children said we couldn’t start the film because one of the ladies hadn’t arrived yet. It was a very nurturing experience with lots of cuddles.”

Robyn MacDonald, activity co-ordinator at Glenbervie Care Home, said: “It’s been a massive success.

“The last session was a Hallowe’en party.

“It’s not usual for a care home to have that kind of party but the children were here and they celebrate everything so we did too.

“Many of the residents don’t have great grandchildren so having children of that age around was amazing for them.

“We have some residents who wouldn’t come out their room before, but they did when the children were here.

“The children being here really increased their socialising skills and their motor skills. It also gave them something to get excited about each week; they really looked forward to see them.”