Toddlers from a Rhyl nursery showed off their natural charm and boundless energy as they enjoyed a teddy bear’s picnic of jelly and ice-cream with elderly care home residents.
The tots, who attend Beach House Day Nursery in Rhyl, took an afternoon “pull-a-long” tram to St David’s Residential Home in the seaside town to spend time with the seniors as part of a new project to enhance wellbeing and promote inter-generational interaction.
The children, aged two and three, have been visiting the home regularly since Christmas and residents have grown very fond of their comical outbursts and cuddles – with many being reminded of their own grandchildren.
Previously, the youngsters have enjoyed Halloween craft activities and Christmas decoration-making at the care home while the nursery hosted a special festive dinner with Santa.
As a member of care champions Care Forum Wales, the home has embraced industry research highlighting the beneficial impact young children can have on the elderly, especially those living with dementia.
Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, said: “I take my hat off to staff at St David’s for opening their doors to toddlers and encouraging these inter-generational relationships to blossom.
“Both the children and the elderly residents benefit greatly from these visits and everybody comes away feeling happy and relaxed.
“Children show their affection so freely and have no social inhibitions, which encourages friendships to form very quickly.
“Spending time in each other’s company really has a therapeutic effect on the residents and gives youngsters a greater understanding of the world around them.”
In its latest event, care workers staged an afternoon picnic of jelly and ice-cream as an early summer treat.
The youngsters were encouraged to bring their favourite teddy bear for the occasion and the guests soon bonded over their mutual love of ice-cream.
Activities coordinator Joan Mitchell said: “Children are naturally very comical and you never quite know what they’re going to do next so you can’t really prepare but that’s one of the reasons why the residents love them so much!
“The children make them laugh just by being themselves and when they have the odd little tiff or two with their friends. They’re more than content to just watch them play and interact with each other.
“It brings back happy memories of their own children or grandchildren. We mustn’t forget that lots of families are based in other parts of the country or abroad nowadays and the residents mightn’t have that frequent contact and so it’s lovely for them to still enjoy the experience of being around children.
“Bringing young children into the home has the same impact as when we bring animals into the home – their faces just light up and they’re so animated and happy.
“We’ve very much tried to bring the community into the home. Some of our residents find it difficult to express themselves with adults but you can see them light up when they hold a child’s hand.”
St David’s has long recognised the therapeutic benefits of inter-generational interaction. Four years ago, it began welcoming home-schooled children to the home to engage with the elderly residents and continues to host singing events with local primary and high schools.
The relationship with Beach House Day Nursery began in the latter half of last year.
Sera Jones, general manager at Beach House Nursery, said: “In the beginning, the children were a little unsure as it was a completely new experience for them but as the visits have gone on they’ve really relaxed and have enjoyed spending time with their new friends.
“We always take the older children to maximise the interaction as they can communicate better. We always try to bring the same children and staff so they can form more of a relationship with the residents and encourage recognition on both sides.
“Normally, we take around eight children to the home. At Halloween, the children made bats and other crafts during the afternoon. The residents really enjoyed helping the children on their craft tables.
“We invited some residents to join us for Christmas dinner alongside Santa and everybody really enjoyed it. It was lovely to have them here in our own setting and watch the children play.
“The children really enjoy it and blow kisses to the residents as they leave which is really lovely to see.
“It brings back memories of their own children growing up and reminds them of their own grandchildren. They sit on the residents’ knees and give them lots of cuddles. Children have no inhibitions and so they’re more than happy to sit and chat with them. The residents love the affection.”
The home has created a photographic display of some of the visits to help the residents remember their new friends.
“We’re really pleased with how well it has all worked and we’re all very keen for it to continue. We’re going to make an effort over the summer to get together and perhaps visit other places and organise different activities,” said Sera, 22, from Abergele.
“Luckily, we’re within walking distance to the home and with our big car transport we can be there in a few minutes.”