Communicating across the generations

Groups of local young people are reaching out and establishing connections, by communicating with older people living in care homes across North East Lincolnshire.

Messages and artwork have been recently delivered to two local care settings as a pilot for this project, with the aim of connecting people who may be experiencing the same isolation and feelings during the COVID-19 outbreak and spreading kindness to others.

Young people from the Our Voice Listen Up Group, which is a voice and influence group for children in care, living in residential care homes or within the foster care system have been joined by the those taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. All those involved are aged 11 – 17 years.

The thoughtful idea to connect with local care home residents was proposed by one of the young people and they are using a range of postcards designed by the Our Voice Listen Up Group to carry their messages.

Fairways Care Home and Alderlea Care Home in Grimsby, have both benefitted and received deliveries of these postcards along with some colourful rainbow posters from the young people. This post is being delivered to the homes regularly and blank postcards left for the residents to use in reply.

The young people have also expressed an interest in making video messages for the residents to enjoy viewing, reading books virtually each week and baking homemade cakes. All these ideas are being explored further along with interest from further groups of young people and care homes in order to expand the project.

Courtnay, (12), the young person who suggested the idea said "I feel really proud making people happy, I know it's hard but we can stay together safe and happy through doing things like this".

Luke, (15), said "I want to make other people's lives better through doing this, to cheer them up and feel good about themselves".

Grace, (14) said, “I really like the idea of being able to help the wider community where I live, especially during these times. Some seniors must feel really isolated and I want them to know that they haven’t been forgotten or disregarded. They are important and we do care.”

Ben, (15) said, “I understand that the residents in the care home might not get much contact from family, so I wanted the chance to try and brighten their day.”

Engagement with the residents is being organised by the care home entertainments coordinators for use during interactive activity sessions with the residents where they will be able to read the messages and encourage responses. Blank postcards are being supplied to give the older people the opportunity to write their own messages in reply to the young people.

Care Home Managers have welcomed this connection being made between those they care for and the younger generation.

Kim Butters, Registered Manager at Fairways Care Home said:
“On behalf of the residents we would like to thank all the children who have taken their time to send in such lovely and thoughtful postcards. Our residents have enjoyed reading the messages and are in the process of completing their replies. We are grateful for the time and effort the children have put into the postcard completion and the wonderful artwork the children have sent. We are always looking for ways to connect our residents with the local community and the postcard idea is such a great way of achieving this. Hopefully when things get back to some sort of normality we will be able to invite the children to the home, where they can share their stories face to face.”

Rachael Smith, Manager at Alderlea Care Home said:
“As a care home, we feel honoured to be a part of this project, our residents are benefitting hugely from this, as they are able to feel a part of their community. They thoroughly enjoy receiving their postcards and writing their responses with support, and this gives them a purpose each day and provides them with meaningful stimulation.  It gives an opportunity for people of all generations and backgrounds to come together and support each other especially during these unknown times. It supports our residents to feel empowered and not forgotten about, in what can be a lonely world sometimes when living in a care home.”

It is hoped that other groups of young people will wish to be involved in this and they can be linked with a care home that is wanting their residents to benefit from these connections between the generations. Organisers of the project are positive about the growth and potential of the connections being made between the generations.

Pippa Curtin, Voice and influence co-ordinator at NELC, said:
“Young people in general are often labelled with a negative image and the fact that these young people came up the idea to brighten someone else's day proves that they are full of kindness and care for others.  Although their ages are very different and most of us are missing seeing the people important to us, our children in care are probably having a very similar experience through this lockdown to those older residents in residential care homes.  We are excited to see how this youth led intergenerational project evolves in the future."

Gemma Goodwin, Youth Engagement Practitioner, Duke of Edinburgh Award, said:
“I was blown away with how many young people wanted to get involved and show our elderly community we are thinking about them, now more than ever. Some of the young people have made amazing and thoughtful gifts or cakes to go along with their postcards, including poems, drawings, origami and water colour paintings. We are hoping this intergenerational ‘pen-pal’ scheme will enlighten both young and old and something we can continue to do, even after lockdown.”

Any local groups of young people and schools wanting to be involved in this project should contact Pippa Curtin at North East Lincolnshire Council pippa.curtin@nelincs.gov.uk

Any care homes that would like their residents to be involved in this then please get in touch with the CCG NELCCG.AdultSocialCare@nhs.net

 

Our Voice Listen Up! is a voice and influence group for children in care aged 11-17 years. This group have worked on creating spaces young people use as more young people friendly. This has included a space in the Civic offices Cleethorpes where care leavers often need to speak to their social worker or support worker. They have also worked with the Family time service to make the spaces used for this more appropriate for teenagers as well as younger children.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme young people, are either taking part in the project as part of their award or because they want to do something nice. They are aged 14 – 17 and working towards their bronze, silver and gold levels of the award. The young people are from across North East Lincolnshire and go to a variety of schools and colleges. Some of them have care responsibilities, some have left school and others are in years 9 and 10.

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