You’ve Got A Friend In Me’- Residents Share Wisdom With A New Generation In Pen Pal Scheme

Residents from Brentwood Care Centre are taking part in an ongoing joint venture with Guided Learning, a local organisation who help provide educational support to children from 6 years old up to 16 by helping them build self-confidence and self-resilience.

During recent months, amid the COVID-19 lockdown, residents at the Residential Dementia and Nursing care home based in Larchwood Gardens, Pilgrims Hatch, have been enjoying regular Facetime and Skype sessions with their families and loved ones. Usually, at this time of year, residents and staff would be busy enjoying visits out into their local community as well as visits from local performers, community groups and Hopscotch Nursery, a children’s nursery who are part of the home’s intergenerational commitment.

With a number of links already with numerous local community initiatives ranging from the annual Easter Egg challenge and being one of the sponsors of Lighting Up Brentwood, to working alongside Brentwood Council to create Virtual Family Fun Days to help keep children entertained during what would have been their summer holidays, the proactive and person-centred focused team from the Dementia, Nursing and Residential home wanted to explore other ways the residents could continue to communicate and remain engaged with their local community.

The existing intergenerational partnership with Hopscotch Nursery has been hugely successful over the last 18 months, resulting in many rewarding benefits for all, and so the team wanted to add to this. Activities Co-ordinator Alison shared the benefits residents receive from such great intergenerational local community links (none of which have faltered despite the current pandemic), “Seeing how much enjoyment our residents get when we FaceTime with the children from the local nursery is always so heart-warming and gives us such a massive morale boast – it’s a talking point for weeks afterwards. I have found on many occasions whilst doing the activities, residents will refer back to experiences they have seen and talked about with the children during their regular FaceTime visits”.

Following a resident focus group where residents had spoken of how much they enjoyed both letter writing and receiving letters and, the team came up with a new idea – finding pen pals within the local community. Although residents love seeing their families and loved ones through Skype or Facetime, “Getting a handwritten letter, addressed to us and opening it is just so exciting.”

In addition, for residents without close family or friends, the prospect of an initiative that could create lasting and meaningful friendships and would bring so much happiness and comfort to them was something the team were keen to bring into reality as quickly as possible.

Brentwood resident Eileen shared her joy these intergeneration communications bring, “I love children, I love it when I get to speak to them on FaceTime and I feel that being able to write to a child would not only educate them, but create new friendships too. I would love to be part of their learning journey and see them grow over time, it would be nice to be able to share photos with them as well.”

Guided Learning founder Kamal Magecha reflected on why she founded the programme and the benefits of the 6-week pen-pal scheme, “My research during my Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology led me to evidence-based research that showed that acts of kindness have a ripple effect and lead to a greater sense of well-being – for both the receiver and the giver. Research also highlights the impact of connection between young people and the elderly, enabling and leading to a greater sense of well-being. Research into Mental and Emotional well-being has highlighted that people with a greater sense of well-being, purpose and fulfilment achieve more. I believe that creating a connection with the elderly will allow our young people to create a connection, whilst helping them to raise their written communication skills and lead to a greater sense of well-being.  It will help shift some of their focus to others and begin their journey into a more fulfilled and purposeful life.”

Brentwood’s Home Manager Torie Pollard underpinned the home’s commitment to their intergenerational strategy and the benefits she hopes the partnership will bring, “At a time when communication is so very important, this intergenerational project will provide stimulation to residents whilst helping students to build confidence and literacy skills.”

 

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