There seems to be an increased focus by nurseries to introduce opportunities for intergenerational interactions. In fact, research has shown that elderly adults who spend time socially with the younger generation are less prone to depression and have better physical health. But what are the benefits for our little ones?
We’re delighted to discover that Unicorn Nursery in Castleford, West Yorkshire, are already seeing the benefits of combining their activities for children with residents at their local care home. Maria Motley, Nursery Manager, shares her story about the benefits of developing intergenerational friendships…
The nursery is conveniently located on the same grounds of a neighbouring nursing home called Manor Park. Over the last few years we have introduced small groups of children aged 3 to 4 years to visit on a regular basis, building a positive relationship between the staff, residents and children. Parents also loved the idea of the children visiting the residents next door, knowing that their children would be taking part in different activities and building relationships with the older generation.
Our first meeting was amazing. The children didn’t know what to expect. At first, they were a little quiet and shy, but then over time they built the confidence to start joining in the activities and eventually approaching and talking to the residents.
The benefits from the regular visits to Manor Park were clear to see as the children’s confidence increased and we noticed an improvement in their development gaps. The children’s behaviour has also improved by being more energetic, their confidence has increased and where some children have been shy - it has helped them to gain more self-esteem. Overall, interacting with the older residents has enabled the children to develop better social and communication skills.
The residents have also benefited from the visits since they have been interacting with the children more. Some residents never had visitors or ventured out of their room until the children started going over, now they are waiting in the day room for the children to go over on the days they are due.
The feedback has been great from the resident’s carers, how it has helped to improve the resident’s overall wellbeing, it’s made them happier. They commented on the impact this has had on the resident’s daily routine; “The little ones bring a new sense of vibrancy and fun to the day room, and the focus for residents was no longer on watching time pass but on enjoying the moment and sharing stories.”
Activities the residents and children like the most is singing, playing outdoors, creative play with playdough, on many occasions we’ve also gone over to see pantos and singers. We try to visit the residents at least twice a week, or more if something special is happening that the children can be involved in, but limit this to around 1 hour 30 minutes per session. We would highly recommend all other early year settings to build a relationship with their local nursing home.
One key physical outcome from visiting the care home is that we have managed to open a secret garden. This is accessed through an interconnecting gate overlooking the back of the nursing home. This gives the children more outdoor space to explore and run around freely with their peers.
We recently hatched some chickens in the nursery which enabled the children to learn about how chickens grow, where they come from, and now these chickens live in the secret garden at Manor Park. We now hold our graduation party in the garden where the residents come along and celebrate with us and get the opportunity to meet the childrens’ families and talk about their experiences with the children.
The feedback from parents is that since their child has been visiting the care home and interacting with the residents, they have developed better communication skills and talk more excitedly and openly about their day at nursery.