23 November 2018

The benefits of intergenerational projects in care homes

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Can decorating cupcakes with multicoloured sprinkles improve an elderly gentleman's health? Or, how about lying on the floor pretending to be a sleeping lion?

While it hasn't been scientifically proven via rigorous testing that either of these activities contribute to health improvement, recent social studies have indicated that physical and cognitive wellbeing positively alters when elderly residents of care homes spend time with children regularly.

Intergenerational care is thought to have officially started in 1976, when Shimada Masaharu merged a nursery school and care home in Tokyo with great success. In the UK, similar projects are on the rise, promoting all kinds of benefits for those involved, such as...

Both generations are entertained

Children say the funniest things. Many residents may not have any grandchildren in their life, and would otherwise miss out on the joys of being entertained by children. Similarly, children at the nursery may not have grandparents in their life- and would otherwise miss out on the entertainment that the older generation can provide. 

Residents can partake in activities they might not otherwise make time for

Sometimes it can be hard to feel motivated to try new things. Having energetic children around may provide the right encouragement to get out of a chair and have a walk around or do some gardening. or painting.

Visits improve the children's language and communication skills

As a child develops, it's essential that their communication skills are nurtured in order for them to be capable of expressing themselves. By talking to older adults, who likely use different language than that to which they're accustomed, their vocabulary will develop along with their confidence, too. The ability to communicate effectively is a key skill, and the better we are at it, the better our quality of life will be.

The residents teach valuable lessons

There is no better way for children to learn than talking to adults with important life experience.  What's more, children love stories, and care home residents have hundreds of them to dish out. 

It's an opportunity for social interaction 

Social isolation among the elderly typically comes about for reasons such as lack of transport options in the area, a lack of a sense of purpose and living alone in an unsuitable and isolated environment. Regular visits provide that social boost allowing them to connect. Social interaction presents some important health benefits for older people, including a potentially reduced risk of dementia and an extensive range of physical problems, such as high blood pressure, arthritis and cardiovascular activities. 

Intergenerational projects are becoming increasingly popular in the UK.

Last year, Channel 4 released a programme 'Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds' showcasing a social experiment in which  residents of a retirement community in Bristol were recorded for a six-week period. The series observes the impact on the project on the older people’s cognitive and physical responses as well as the children's intellectual abilities, all of which greatly improved. 

What do you think? Do you think there should be more intergenerational projects in place to promote wellbeing? Have you seen the success of a care home project first hand? Let us know by emailing marketing@newcrosshealthcare.com