In this blog, Sharon describes the impact of intergenerational sessions in residential care.

Today we met with activities co-ordinator Stella. Stella told me that the children have been visiting regularly for about 12 months after reaching out to the nursery and at first, they had about 4 children coming to a home we have been working with recently for their intergenerational sessions. However, this has gradually grown, demonstrating the popularity of the sessions for both young and old, and they now have approximately 16 children visiting once a fortnight.

Stella took me into the lounge where I was introduced to a couple of people who live in the care home, who were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the children from the local nursery. A couple of ladies and a gent started chatting and we talked about the children’s visits. One lady spoke fondly of previous visits, telling of how a parachute is often employed for the session together. A gent sitting nearby added that he recalled a time the children had made a ‘pie’ from clay for them, “filled with meat and potato it was” he added. They then spoke in tandem telling me of how they had had to pretend to eat said pie and relish it so as not to upset the children. “It took a while to go down” they added with a smile. It was clear that fond memories formed as people recalled their previous encounters with these 3 and 4-year-olds.

Another gent, with a concerned look on his face, whom had remained silent chirped up with “Are they definitely coming?” to which Stella added a reassuring “Yes, they’ll be here.” A comfortable silence fell in the lounge before Stella guided everyone into the dining room and we all sat in a large circle awaiting the arrival of the little ones. The session started with a little light football, people were clearly warming up, and shortly after we saw the line of bright yellow vests heading towards us. One chap shouted out “Here they come, look out!”

The children sat in a smaller circle at the epicentre of the adult’s circle. Instantly there was an energy in the room. Chattering yes, but something more, an awakening, a zest, a visible lift, in posture and facial features. The children were in charge of the ball now and they threw it vigorously around the room; people laughed and the energy lifted a notch when the brightly coloured parachute was introduced. We waved it up and down and the children’s laughter was audible and matched by that from the adults. Then, after a couple of children tried to escape through the hole in the top of the parachute, the brightly coloured cloth was laid still. It was gathered away by Stella and the children began to sing.

Familiarity filled the air as everyone sang loudly to childhood favourites such as ‘Wheels on the Bus’, ‘Ba, Ba, Black Sheep’, ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’ and ‘Incy Wincey Spider’. One lady sat teaching the children the words to ‘Little Miss Muffet’. The room came alive, people certainly got moving, hands, arms, feet, all moving to the beat.

As the session came to a close the children got ready to leave. They were clearly very comfortable as they high-fived and embraced people. Some of the adults sat forward and helped the children to zip up their coats, caught in conversation with them as they did. One lady, who had a cheeky glint in her eye, had been particularly active and had sang and boogied throughout the session. One little girl turned to this lady as she was leaving and shouted ‘You be good!’

Although the sound had subsided following the session, the lift in energy that I had felt upon their arrival remained. People sat with huge smiles on their faces, chatting about the children. We talked more about the previous sessions and how they look forward to the children coming regularly. I have been invited to join them again for another intergenerational session, and I have to say it would be an absolute pleasure to accept.