The first intergenerational playgroup, in Kent, bringing generations together, has opened at Westbank Care Home.
Little Acorns Playgroup was created by three local mums who spotted a link between the way young children, and the elderly, are treated by society. They say the group, running every Friday morning, has fostered blooming relationships between the residents, toddlers, and their carers, and has been dubbed ‘the highlight of their week’ by many of the residents.
Laura Clout, 39, a mum of three, from Ightham, who helped set up Little Acorns, said she was inspired by the success of similar projects running in Australia and the US, also the Apples and Honey nursery which is soon set to open on the site of a care home in London.“We love being parents and spending time with our children, but have also found caring for small children at home can be incredibly isolating. With families living further apart from each other, partners working long hours, and the sheer intensity of meeting young children’s needs all day and night, it can be really lonely work.
“Elderly people also suffer from being on the fringes of society. They can feel frustrated by having less control over their own lives than they would like, and have less access to the outside world.
“We have some wonderful care homes in Sevenoaks, and Westbank provides a lovely, caring environment for its residents. But we saw an opportunity to bring different parts of the community together and just have lots of fun.”
Little Acorns runs from 10am until 12pm every Friday, even during school holidays, and asks for a £2 donation per family. Parents and carers must come with their child and supervise them while they are there. All ages are welcome and there is a lovely garden with toys, a sandpit and slide. The group run a weekly craft session for the pre-schoolers and residents, there are books and toys and a particular favourite with everyone is the singalong at the end of the session.
Alice Stone, from Shoreham, a mother of one, found the venue for the playgroup after she was contacted by Louise Howland, an Activities Manager for New Century Care, which runs the home. Alice said: “Due to health and safety concerns, some places we asked were not keen on the idea. However, Louise could see the huge benefits of the scheme from the start. “She has such a sunny, can-do attitude and was determined to make it work. We have some ground rules which we ask parents to sign up to before they come – so everyone is responsible for their own child’s safety, but we have not experienced any problems so far. She added: “It’s wonderful to watch the children showing the residents the train tracks they have built, and the way their faces light up when the children arrive. “We always have at least four or five residents who join us for a good old sing-song at the end, and nursery rhymes are so enduring that everyone knows the words and can join in somehow.”
Genevieve Rodrigues, Home Manager at Westbank Care Home said: “We are always on the lookout for new ideas to help our residents lead fulfilling lives, as integral parts of the local community. That is why we jumped at the chance to try this new scheme and see how it benefits both the children and the residents. We have been running this group at Westbank for a while now and it has proven really popular. We are all delighted that it has been such a success.”
A recent CQC inspection awarded Westbank “outstanding” for the activities provided there, with inspectors noting: “people were supported to lead interesting and meaningful lives. They were encouraged and enabled to continue with their hobbies and interests. The registered manager had used creative ways to enable people to benefit from engagement with their local community.”
Contact Laura Clout 07805 289 530 or [email protected] for more information about the playgroup.