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Fun and friendship for young and old in new project at Reading College

Fun and friendship are on the menu for young children and elderly care home residents taking part in a ground-breaking activity at Reading College this month. Students and staff at the college have been working on an exciting new project, inspired by the Channel 4 TV programme “Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds”. The successful TV show explored the health and wellbeing benefits for both pre-schoolers and the older generation from spending time together. The programme also highlighted what can be gained when different generations mix, share and learn together.

To help them with this ambitious project, named ‘The Gift’, early years and health and social care students and staff at Reading College have joined together with local care homes and nurseries, with the first successful session, running on Friday 19 January. Claire Hermitage, Director of Childcare, at Berkeley Gardens Day Nursery, one of the nurseries taking part said: “We are really excited to be invited to be involved in this pilot project. The children have also been really excited about it. It has been great to see children who are not so confident meeting and interacting with people they don’t know. They have been making connections with the care home residents by drawing them a picture or inviting them to take part in an activity, which has been lovely to watch.”

The project is being hosted at the Reading College campus by students who organised activities for the children and the care home residents to take part in. All activities are supported and closely monitored by the college’s experienced teaching staff. 

Salwa Boon, Director of Curriculum Design and Delivery at Activate Learning, which includes Reading College, said: “We are pleased to have successfully launch the first session of our project 'The Gift'. The project is aimed at bringing two generations together and create opportunities for the elderly and children to enhance each other's life experiences. Older and younger generations are becoming increasingly disconnected due to living arrangements or social changes. “We are very proud of our health and social care and early years learners who created great activities that met the needs of both generations” 

Kim Franks, Development Manager at St Lukes Care Home, said: “We feel very privileged to be asked to take part in this exciting project. I feel that the residents have benefited greatly from the interaction, fun and friendship they experience

d through spending time with the children. “We have only been involved in one session so far and the residents are already asking if they can go again. One lady said that ‘she loved singing songs with the children and doing all the actions as it reminded her of when her daughter was little’ while another said that ‘being able to talk to the children was the best thing, and I definitely want to go again!’” Student, April Thacker, currently studying a Childcare Level 2 programme at Reading College, said: “It has been an eye-opening experience. At first everyone was quite cautious and not sure what to do but by the end lots of the children had gathered around one of the care home residents, Joyce, looking at a book together. It was lovely to see them bonding over common ground.” 

Aimee Lessels, currently studying Childcare Level 3 said: “It has been fun seeing the children and interacting with them. I think the residents really enjoyed it too”. Whilst, Becky Reid, Health and Social Care Level 2, added: “I was quite emotional seeing the children interacting with the elderly visitors. They all seemed to really enjoy it.”

Salwa Boon concludes: “We are hoping that these sessions will allow children and older people get to know each other, have fun and develop trust and friendship. We are grateful to St.Luke's Care Home, Berkeley Gardens Nursery and WigWam Day Nursery for agreeing to be partners on this project. “The benefits of this project are numerous for all parties involved. For the nursery children, these are in line with the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) and will build on their personal, social and emotional development, including developing a positive sense of themselves and others, whilst forming respectful social skills. “For the residents of the care homes, benefits can include greater emotional well-being which can lead to improved physical health and better cognitive performance. “And special thanks to Fiona Taylor, our Work Placement Coordinator, for her commitment and dedication to this project.” 

The project is also being run at Banbury and Bicester College, starting from Friday 26 January.