The Essex town of Maldon dates back more than a thousand years – but in the past year, it has hosted a very modern social experiment.
Research tells us that younger and older people are the two groups of society most affected by ageist attitudes and marginalisation. The local NHS wanted to look at a new way of tackling this problem – so they teamed up with organisations caring for both groups.
NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has been working with Longfield Care Home and All Saints’ Church of England Primary School, both in Maldon, throughout 2018 to bring pupils from the school into the home to spend time with people with dementia.
Philip Brown, Head Teacher of All Saints, explains: “We’re always looking for ways to involve the school in our local community and have been nurturing some early links with three care homes over the past six months. We wanted to give our oldest pupils confidence in building new relationships before they go on to secondary school.
“Staff within the care homes were hopeful that the experience could also help to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst residents. The visits from our Year 6 pupils have been revolutionary for both age groups.
“We’ve seen some amazing and beautiful friendships unfold over the past few months. It’s been like watching our very own version of the Disney Pixar film ‘Up’.”
This similarity gave the project its name, and the CCG has been so impressed with the early results of the project that it produced a film with Two Cubed Creative to showcase how much young people and home residents have benefited from their meetings.
Longfield Care Home, operated by family company Excel Care, is also delighted with how their residents have responded when the All Saints pupils are with them.
Home Manager Gina Copsey said: “The atmosphere when the children visit is absolutely lovely, but what has surprised me is that, despite having dementia, many of our residents are remembering that the children have been there. They’re talking about it the next day and asking when they’ll be back.”
Dan Doherty, Director of Clinical Transformation at NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “As in many parts of the country, the NHS here in mid Essex faces significant challenges as our elderly population grows. Projects like Up! offer a potential means of changing the mindset of a generation.
“The Up! project has been made possible through the hard work and commitment of All Saints staff and pupils and the staff and residents of Longfield Care Home. We can support the project through academic evaluation of its positive outcomes. By connecting the school to other local partners we’ve been able to strengthen the project and make sure its outcomes are shared more widely.
“We hope to show that intergenerational projects such as Up! have a profound positive impact on both young and old, helping them to Live Well and changing attitudes towards them in mid Essex and beyond.”
All Saints Church of England Primary School has plans to expand the project and has set up a crowd funding page using ‘The Essex Crowd’ which is a platform offered by Essex County Council to help raise funds from the local community. You can donate by clicking here.
NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group is working with Anglia Ruskin University on evaluation of outcomes of the project for the people living with dementia and the school pupils involved.