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Bridging the generation gap at Grasshoppers Day Nursery

An intergenerational project designed to foster community spirit is reaping benefits for pre-schoolers at Grasshoppers Day Nursery and residents at St. Leonards Care Home in Aylesbury.

The weekly exchange visits between the home and the Ofsted-rated ‘Outstanding’ Day Nursery in Wendover Road mean both age groups are not only learning from each other but also having fun which is impacting wellbeing.

Grasshoppers Day Nursery Team Leader, Aisling Fitzgerald said:

“It’s a complete joy to be a part of this project and the benefits have exceeded all expectations. The children are thriving as a result of the attention from these special visitors, and for the care home residents, the interactions are helping with general wellbeing and, in some cases, positively impacting the symptoms associated with dementia.”

At the nursery, activities can range from baking and crafting to letter and number play and on the return visits to St. Leonards there is a special area in the communal living space which has been adapted to include a range of child-friendly resources including books, toys and instruments. 

“The children are extremely inquisitive and are learning a lot from the residents who are enthusiastic teachers and clearly totally absorbed by the ideas and observations of their young companions”.

“This all provides a real boost to self-esteem for both groups and is a perfect antidote to feelings of loneliness and isolation often experienced by older people. It is also great for children who live some distance from their grandparents,” said Aisling, adding that parents are enthusiastic supporters of the initiative.  

Activities are designed to stimulate the mind and memory and are planned and adapted around the interests of both the residents and the children. They include singing, gardening, reading, baking and visits from the ‘Zoo Lab’ where both groups have the opportunity to handle a variety of exotic creatures.

St Leonards Engagement Lead, Ruth Webster explained that in addition to improving health, the project aims to increase the residents’ levels of social interaction and encourage friendships regardless of age, giving the two generations a better understanding of each other and their specific interests.

“This project is part of a broad community engagement initiative that we have been developing over nearly three years; to grow mutual respect and understanding across the generations; from pre-school to youth groups. Residents feel a sense of purpose as they support the children at play, develop relationships, try new activities and have fun.

Children’s visits to us have included play days, picnics, watching a musical and joining residents for lunch in the dining room. They refer to St Leonards as “Ellen and Doreen’s house” – two of the residents that have been involved with the project the longest.”

The intergenerational initiative began in 2014 when children and staff from Grasshoppers Day Nursery began delivering gift hampers to the residents with the project growing increasingly interactive each year.