Involving under 18's in their local care homes is both important and necessary for continued inter-generational learning. From schools to NCS groups, great ongoing relationships have been formed.
Encouraging and maintaining intergenerational connections (friendships, teaching and learning) between younger people and older people in care homes has always been a key feature of our charity. Our Young FaNs Club initiative has been developed for the under 18s.
The Young FaNs Club involves young people whose ages range from five to seventeen years old, but we have also encouraged our pre-school #UP projects. We have Schools and local youth groups who regularly visit care home residents, including Beavers, Scouts, Brownies, Police cadets, Fire cadets and performing arts Dance groups, as well as individual young people who want to volunteer as FaNs.
Many of our residents have been Scouts or Guides in their youth and they really enjoy talking about that and comparing experiences with the young people today.
Individual Young FaNs visit residents regularly to play games and chat. We have some very dedicated young people who have made a real impression in their local Care Home. One young Fan helped a resident to produce his own life story book.
We have links with around 25 Schools and a number of Essex Primary schools now have long standing relationships with their local Care Homes, consistently going in and spending an hour or 2 every month with the residents, reading and learning together. At Christmas, the schools often do the final rehearsal of their Christmas Play at the Care Home for the residents to enjoy.
The Care Home residents absolutely love it. It’s something they will look forward to and ask ‘When are the children coming back?’
With the Schools, and youth organisations we are able to demonstrate to them the value of intergenerational relationships, the development of communication skills, the exchange of learning and ideas, the sharing of practical skills, the enhancement to confidence and self-esteem as well as the sheer pleasure of seeing how much the older people benefit from their visits and shared activities.
Our relationship with the National Citizens Service has also enabled a number of care homes to benefit from a summer ‘project’ undertaken by a cohort group of young people. These have included painting murals, decorating rooms for individual residents, developing garden areas as well as spending time with the residents chatting and even performing musically.
Some of the Young FaNs youth groups also get involved as part of our wider local Partnership Activities or events. These often develop from conversations with Care Home residents, many from specific Resident ‘wishes’ encouraged by Care Homes participating in our Wishing Washing Line initiative. For example, wishes ‘to go dancing’ or ‘to get together with friends at Tea Dances’ resulted in a 1940’s Tea Dance in the Ramsey Memorial Hall (Harwich) was held in conjunction with our ‘United in Kind’ Essex County Council Partners, with food donated by Morrisons. In this we were able to involve the police cadets and a number of residents, from 3 different local Care Homes, to join with other local older people.
We regularly have Fire Service Cadets accompanying Colchester Care Home residents to annual Remembrance Day events (so important to our older generation) and enjoying a shared Tea Party afterwards, with opportunities to share meaningful stories and listen to experiences. Our partners such as Essex University Students Union and Colchester 360 Community Transport were also involved.
All of these activities demonstrate the value of volunteering to the participants in our Young FaNs Club, and illustrate the benefits of working together with other local organisations to create great experiences and joy for our care home residents. For many of these young people this is not a one-off volunteering option - many are keen to return to help with other activities such as accompanying our residents on Walk and Talk events, pushing wheelchairs and having enthusiastic conversations.
There’s always something going on in the Care Homes with the young FaNs club. The Young Fans Club is the future of FaNs. They are the people who we will rely on to carry on the FaNs initiatives – like the #Up project, the WWL. They will pick up the ‘volunteering’ and ‘acts of human kindness’ mantel and carry it on for us, so they are vitally important and they are people we should really cherish and keep very close to us.Tony Lee