Books

The incredible pensioner and toddler book group keeping old minds active

Once upon a time there was an incredible reading scheme... The staff of one elderly care home in Somerset found a new way to help their residents communicate

There might be 90 years between Helen and Jacob but they have one thing in common – a love for Dr. Seuss.

When we launched The Big Issue Big Books Giveaway last year, offering free books to groups who need them, we were blown away by the number and variety of organisations using reading to build connections and improve lives. One of the most touching requests came from Winash Care Home in North Somerset, which cares for residents aged between 80 and 98.

Reading helps the residents feel valued and able to still do the things they want to do.

To keep minds active, the home teamed up with the nursery next door and each week kids come in to spend a few hours with residents. They asked if we could send easy-to-read picture books for their regular book sessions where residents read stories to the children.

“Reading to the kids helps the residents feel useful again,” says Heather House, owner of Winash Care Home. “They feel valued and able to still do the things they want to do. They feel that if they can read stories to the children, they can do other things too.

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“They tend to get reminiscent of their own children and interacting with the children brings that joy. It brings a bit of life to the place.”

• Nearly half of adults (7.7million) aged 55 and older say they have experienced depression – with one in four citing a ‘stiff-upper-lip’ culture as the reason they found it difficult to communicate.

• Feeling connected and building relationships can keep your brain in better health.

(Data from YouGov and charity AgeUK)

For more information and support about growing older visit ageuk.org.uk or call 0800 055 6112.

Winash activities co-ordinator Anne Ellis, who requested the books, spoke about the huge benefits that intergenerational work has for the elderly residents.

“The children only come for about 30 minutes at a time, but once they’ve gone back to the nursery we still end up having long conversations with those who were involved because spending time with the children triggers so many wonderful memories in them.”

It’s not just the residents who find their spines tingling with the joy of a newly opened book. The 30 children who visit from Rydal Day Nursery gain a wealth of benefits too, with Anne noting the nursery staff’s comments on the children’s excitement at visiting each week.

“The children gain from the experience as well. For them it’s about meeting and communicating with older people and learning from their experiences as well as recognising that other people have needs too.

“The residents reading to them helps with their speech and communication, and builds their confidence at interacting with people older than themselves.

WinashCareHome_embed2
Jacob and Helen love reading together

“Last week Jacob, who’s four, and Helen, who’s 94, spent the whole session laughing together.” 

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