Children & Dementia

Robyn Taylor, one of our regular activity coordinator columnists, talks about how important it is for residents to spend some time with younger children, and how beneficial the relationship is for both groups of people

We have all experienced the pleasure of being surrounded by young children, they lift our spirits, but watching Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds on Channel 4 has recently reminded me how beneficial children’s company is for the elderly, both physically and emotionally.

Many elderly people in care homes feel lonely, even though they are surrounded by people all day. Some (not all) can feel frustrated, have a lack of confidence and feel cut-off from society, many  have lost any sort of motivation that they may have once had. When children come into the home on a regular basis it seems to change their mindset. The residents have something to focus on, look forward to and it brings real happiness to them. Intergenerational relationships are so important to both the young and the old. The perception of older people to the four year olds can be quite daunting, but that soon changes as unlikely friendships are built. Watching this programme, and also having the pleasure of witnessing this sort of experience firsthand, is overwhelming – seeing the joy that children give to the elderly is very special. As a coordinator, it is so important to learn about a resident’s life – have they had children or always wanted children? Has their family grown up and or grown apart? How does thinking about the younger generation make them feel? It of course brings all sorts of memories and emotions.

One thing that the programme hasn’t touched on so far, though, has been the specific benefits for people living with dementia. In my care home, we have regular baby groups, while schools and nurseries visit on a regular basis. I was recently on maternity leave, and I have loved taking my little one to visit the residents too. It is amazing to watch someone – who may be losing the ability to speak fluently, has coordination issues, memory loss and struggles to perform day-to-day tasks – when the motherly instinct just takes over. Children, even though they can be full of energy, bring a sense of calm and nurturing to a resident. This programme will warm your heart, inspire you, and make you want to take your little ones to see their grandparents/great grandparents.

If you work in a care home speak with your local schools, and if you have children, why not pop in to your local care home and arrange to visit? You would be welcomed by everyone.

You can watch Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds here

Robyn Taylor has worked as an activity coordinator in Lincolnshire for the last nine years. She recently won the East Midlands ‘Putting People First’ award for the care home she works in. She has always been passionate about enabling residents to continue with the things they love the most, and working with relatives and the community to ensure new and exciting opportunities are available. She recently had a baby boy and says: “I look forward to supporting The Daily Sparkle as much as they have supported me.”