Young at heart: Can children really help elderly care?

Whether you have grandchildren, children or are just involved in the community, many people know the happiness that little ones can bring at times. But what role can they play in elderly care?

The recent Channel 4 documentary series 'Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds' has caused many people to ask this very question. Across two episodes, the TV show followed ten four-year-old children who spent time with a group of elderly people who were living in a care home.

As to be expected, a number of the older residents were sceptical about the outcome of the experiment but most seemed to benefit from the intergenerational bonds they developed with the children.

Over the course of the programme, many of the residents experienced improvements in their mental and physical wellbeing, while the children blossomed in confidence and social skills.

But what does this mean for elderly care?

Although quite a novel concept in the UK, encouraging younger children to spend time with older people is something that facilities across the world have adopted in some form. Japan often has nursery children visit the elderly in care homes, with some places even offering childcare at the same location as the home. This is becoming much more common practice across the world, as more people see the benefit that children can have on elderly care, and vice versa.

In a care home setting, where relatives and friends may not be able to visit regularly, having this connection with the younger generation can be a valuable resource for maintaining and improving physical and mental wellbeing in older people.

Concerns about people becoming isolated and lonely as they age is a big concern for society, and encouraging these links between the generations could be a way to ensure the elderly population get the social contact they need.

However, these relationships can be just as beneficial for the young people taking part as well. Research has suggested that children who have contact with older people are "more patient, express more empathy, exhibit more self-control and have better manners".

Community ties

It seems clear that encouraging relations between the oldest and youngest in society is a win-win situation. This is why connecting our homes with the local community and the young people in it is something we do wherever possible at Barchester. Whether it's inviting local schools and nurseries to come join us on special days or taking our residents into the community, we believe this relationship is important for elderly care and for our younger generations too.

Finding the right care home is a big decision so understanding what services and facilities are available is essential, whether you are preparing for the future or looking to get the right care support for a loved one.