A Warm Glow in Solihull

Maxine Burrows and Yvonne Obaidy are Collaborative Leads for Early Help 0 – 19 at Solihull Metropolitan Council.  They develop high quality sustainable services for children, young people and families.  In this blog they talk about a new intergenerational pilot that they are working on and how they are enjoying the challenges and diversity that this work is providing.  Dr Zoe Wyrko (Consultant Geriatrician. Associate Medical Director – Quality Development, University Hospitals Birmingham) is providing them with support and help as needed, including evaluation tools for the older adults. You can follow them at @EngageSolihull

We are carrying out a pilot of intergenerational working in Olton, a district of Solihull in the West Midlands, with two local partners – St Bernard’s Residential Care Home for older adults and Tender Years Day Nursery. The care home has lovely cosy rooms – which are not huge, and the nursery has transport for five children so we chose to do a small pilot involving just five older adults to start with. Our intergenerational activity takes place every Wednesday at 10.30am for one hour.

We had several preliminary individual meetings with the nursery and the care home and then all parties came together for a final planning meeting two weeks before the pilot started. The meetings were useful for clarifying roles and responsibilities and planning some of the activities.  Most importantly the final meeting enabled the care home staff and nursery staff to meet and share their reasons for taking part in the pilot. Both settings were driven by the needs of their clients, recognising that this work would provide great benefits to both children and older adults.  This ethos was reflected in every aspect of planning and risk assessment; it underpinned the pilot and is key to its success.

Early sessions focused on the children and older adults getting to know each other and building relationships.  Activities included sharing books and photographs.  One older adult shared models of Rosie and Jim to enable him to talk about his love of canal boats.  Another made pom poms for all of the children resulting in an impromptu game of catch.  Pom poms were thrown all over the room and older adults were reaching and stretching under chairs to retrieve them.

We gained permission from all of the families of the clients taking part in the pilot and continue to provide them with updates. One family visited the Care Home just before Christmas to deliver a card for one of the older adults who has formed a particular bond with their child. One of the older adult’s families bought each child a selection box.

We will formally evaluate the pilot in February 2018. However both organisations have already seen the following impacts:

Older Adults

  • An increase in their morale and motivational levels.
  • All of the residents that are taking part are extremely keen on the children coming in, and report feeling much happier.
  • It encourages the residents to be more mobile and use other senses instead of relying on their strongest abilities.
  • They all have a glow about them as soon as the children are mentioned or come to the sessions.
  • Lots of positive comments from families about how happy their relative is since the project started.
  • Relationships are forming naturally; Ivy and Oliver (see photo) have grown very close since the first session.

Young Children

  • The children have grown in confidence much faster than we would typically expect, notably being more confident to speak to or approach unfamiliar adults for assistance.
  • The children are talking about their older friends in everyday activities and say things like ‘can I make one of these for Harold and take it to the big house?’
  • There is a display of the big house at the nursery and the children can be heard telling their friends things about their special friend.
  • Parents have sought me (nursery manager) out to thank me for their child’s opportunity to be a part of this project. The children can now direct me to the big house and get really excited when they know it’s time to go.
  • It’s been such a lot of fun and it just makes us all feel good, everyone smiles.

Staff at both the care home and the nursery talk about a glow, a sense of wellbeing and happiness.  These are not always easy to measure in a quantitative way – even though they are in our opinion the most important impact of all.

Next steps

The next steps will include an event in Spring 2018 where we will invite all providers of care for children, older adults and youth (including schools) in Solihull.  We will share news of the pilot with our partners and include the evaluations.  We are developing a toolkit that will also be available to all interested groups.  Additional plans include setting up an intergenerational choir in the north of the borough.

If you would like any further information about this pilot please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0121 709 7000.

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