Showcasing our Intergenerational Drama Project
We were thrilled to see the fruits of our intergenerational drama project last week when the Year 8 pupils showcased the final production to residents and their families at a local care home. The project involved Wendy (our Volunteer Coordinator, who is also a writer and actor) working with students from a local school, who spent time getting to know some care home residents, collecting stories from their lives, and turning these stories into a musical production.
The production, “Over The Rainbow”, was largely set around the 1940s and included favourite music from the era, which had several of the residents humming along and dancing in their chairs, which was a real delight to see. One resident said “I enjoyed it thoroughly. It brought back lots of memories, good and bad. But it was wonderful.”
Another resident said “The girls had thought about what they were doing and they’d obviously taken the bits that they had been told by the people they’d visited over time; it was all in there and they put it together well. I enjoyed it and I think that’s the most important thing; and I saw everyone else enjoyed it too.”
The students also told us they gained a lot from the project - from growing their confidence and teamwork skills, to changing their views about older people and their perspective of life in general. One pupil said “we’ve got so much to learn from care home residents” and this was a common theme amongst the pupils. One student spoke of a gentleman who had lost both of his legs in WWII and had gone onto become a successful actor, “it was amazing to see someone who had been through so much in their youth to be telling these stories and be so happy today.”
The school’s Head of Drama said the pupils had “gained confidence, empathy for the elderly and collaborative skills in rehearsing. The project was a great way for the students to become involved in a local community on our doorstep.”
Wendy, who led the project at Embracing Age says “The grant from Culture Seeds allowed us to create a beautiful space, that built a lasting connection between a group of young people and elderly residents in a care home. We witnessed the joy and delight from the elderly residents, their feeling of value sharing their stories. We watched the girls’ excitement and confidence grow listening to these stories, and making them into a play. It was a truly magical experience.”
You can watch highlights of the performance and interviews with some of the residents and pupils below.
A huge thank you to the Mayor of London’s Culture Seed Programme for funding this project, and to the school and the care home for working with us. If you would be interested in exploring an intergenerational project with us, please contact us here.
Come along and say hello to us at the Christian Resources Exhibition at Sandown Park Racecourse, Tuesday 15 - Thursday 17 October. A fantastic opportunity to find out more about what we do and how you can get involved with Care Home Friends.
You can get a free ticket via our link: https://eventdata.uk/Forms/Form.aspx?FormRef=CREA9Visitor&FormMode=COMP&TrackingCode=CHF19
What is the Christian Resources Exhibition?
The CRE offers fresh ideas, products and suppliers to ordained clergy, lay leaders and anyone who cares about the future of their local church. Find everything you need for your church – all in one place.
Tuesday 15 October 2019 – 10am-5pm
Wednesday 16 October 2019 – 10am-5pm
Thursday 17 October 2019 – 10am-4.30pm
Just 15 miles from central London, Sandown Park is easily accessible by rail (25 minutes from London Waterloo to Esher) and road (M25 and A3). Parking is free for exhibitors and visitors. A courtesy bus will be available between Esher railway station and Sandown Park racecourse, during the opening times.
Faith Action, as the Secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society have recently written a report on how faith based organisations are tackling loneliness. We provided a case study about Care Home Friends. The report can be downloaded here.
Tina was recently interviewed for a podcast for Together with God, talking about the importance of valuing older people within the church and society, helping different generations relate to one another, and how Christian families and churches can better support older people. Click here to listen
I was sitting in a restaurant, over 20 years ago, on a date with my hubby, when a group of about a dozen people came in and sat on the tables opposite us. I was fascinated by them, as they were such a mixed bunch – different nationalities, cultures and ages, all having a really great time together. I wondered what common interest had brought this disparate group together and I said to my husband, “I bet they’re Christians!” And they were.
There is something powerfully distinct about togetherness. Diversity in unity. I was reminded of this restaurant scene recently when considering the question, “What does a church community look like that genuinely loves and appreciates the uniqueness and contribution of all the different generations within it?
We can appreciate this diversity in unity when the apostle Paul speaks of the church as a body – with each member playing a unique role and every part being needed for us to function properly. But this analogy has limitations for an intergenerational perspective – the parts of my body are a similar age!
I think the best example of what it looks like to be a church that values and loves across the generations is family – the most natural multi-generational community on earth! We all know there’s no such thing as a perfect family, but let’s just imagine for a minute how an ideal family might function:
How can each of us encourage this sort of expression of family in the life of the church?
It can be hard to visit someone when it seems like they are slipping further away into their dementia, or losing their ability to communicate verbally. When it feels like you’re not making a difference and your visits aren’t remembered it’s understandable to begin to wonder if it’s even worth visiting at all. It is! Though people living with dementia may soon forget the details of your visit, they will be left with the emotional memory for far longer. The feeling of being loved, cared for, happy.
So how do we try and make our visits those which leave the person feeling loved, cared for and happy? How do we enable someone living with advanced dementia to enjoy the moment? Here are my top tips:
What were the interests and hobbies of the person? Did they like particular music, or art? What smells, tastes, sounds, touch and visual stimulation will bring enjoyment to them? Even people with very advanced dementia can experience enjoyment through the senses and it can create connections.
Sound - favourite music, singing, favourite TV/radio theme tunes. Poetry - old familiar poetry like The Owl and the Pussy Cat. The lady I visit loves Shakespeare’s sonnets. She can’t remember what she was doing half an hour ago but she can join in when I’m reading his sonnets to her. Perhaps it might be favourite verses from the Bible or the Lord's Prayer that brings them comfort and connection, or old hymns and sunday school songs.
Vision - photos of family, old holiday snaps, pictures of anything that the person with dementia would find stimulating. I visited a lady once who had very advanced dementia and it was impossible to hold a coherent conversation with her. But she mentioned to me that she liked a group of artist called the “Canadian Five”. With the help of google I printed off some paintings which I took the following week. We were able to have an amazing conversation as she talked about these pictures.
Smell - lavendar, rosemary, favourite perfumes or aftershaves. Take the person you are visiting for a walk in the care home garden - admire the sights and interact with the smells, especially if there are herbs growing in the garden.
Touch - the importance of caring touch can not be over estimated. You can learn to do a simple hand massage technique that can really bring connection between you are your loved one. Here’s a link.
There are so many other things to touch and feel. I once visited a lady who was bed bound with very advanced dementia and had visual impairment. I learned she used to be a seamstress and made beautiful wedding dresses, so I got some offcuts from our local bridal shop and she would spend ages touching and caressing them. (See photo) And how about bubble wrap? Who doesn’t enjoy a good pop of the bubbles?
Talking of bubbles - they can be a lot of fun - both blowing them and popping them. I spent time with a lady in a sensory session. She wasn’t interacting at all, just watching. She couldn’t even have a hand massage due to a condition of her hands. But when we started blowing bubbles and we put the bubble wand to her lips she blew and created her own bubbles. It was so special.
I’ve mentioned going outside but it’s worth repeating. Many people with dementia are living in a locked unit for the safety of residents. To be able to go outside can be so liberating - the fresh air, the flowers, the birds, the trees.
Art - painting, drawing and colouring. These are great in themselves and particularly good for people who have lost the ability to communicate verbally. I recently learned that the lady I visit used to draw horses so now each week I take in a sketch book and pencils for her to have a go.
A manicure - who doesn’t love a bit of pampering? A manicure isn’t just for ladies either - there are men who liked to be well groomed too. And combine it with a gentle hand massage for the ultimate enjoyment.
I have a bag now which I take to the care home every week. It has a basic manicure kit, a portable speaker, hand cream, a sketch book, photos, pictures and music on my phone. I can then offer different activities depending on the mood and fancy of the lady I visit. There are some weeks it doesn’t go that well, if she is having a particularly bad day, but more often than not it has enabled me to bring her a little enjoyment. Although I have been visiting for nearly two years I still have to introduce myself every week and I know she has no memory of my previous visit. And yet, I do sense that she knows me. At the very least she associates me with good feelings, and that for me, makes all worth while.
Our population is ageing, fast.
It's a hidden time bomb that no-one in the church is talking about.
In the last 60 years, the number of people aged over 65 has doubled, and the number of people over the age of 85 has tripled.
Kofi Annan, former president of the United Nations, described it as “a revolution that extends well beyond demographics, with major economic, social, cultural, psychological and spiritual implications”.
An Ageing Population
The proportion of older people in the UK is forecast to dramatically increase over the next two decades.
Those aged 85 and over, are the fastest growing age group in the UK. It’s predicted that 20% people currently in the UK will live to see their centenary (DWP, 2011).
Those over 85 are more likely to experience frailty, ill health and dependence, with 75% of over 85’s suffering from limiting long-standing illnesses.
Whilst the numbers of those in the third age (65-74) is predicted to stay relatively static over the next 12 years, those in the fourth age (75-84) is forecast to grow by 25%, and those aged over 85 by 50%.
Due to the drop in the numbers of young people attending, the church is ageing more acutely than society (Brierley, 2015).
That's a massive change.
In past generations, it has been the church that has led the way on social reform. Think of Cadbury and William Wilberforce who were well ahead of their time.
The church model we now live with was established decades ago. Our outreach programs are often designed for a population that comprised mainly of families with young children or teenagers.
With a changing population, our church models have failed to change and grow with them.
Many churches have youth and children’s workers, but few have anyone assigned to older people, let alone a strategy for mission and discipleship of their older community.
A cursory glance at church movements and websites, shows a glaring hole in any provision for those age 65 and over.
We believe that, as it has through history, the church should be taking the lead on the issue of a changing world around us. It should be the church who seeks to bridge the growing generational divide.
The ageism that is so prevalent in society can so easily spill over in to the church. Yet, the church should be leading the way in expressing the worth, dignity and value of the older generations to us as a society.
Jesus told His followers that the world would know us by the love that we have for one another.
The hallmark of the church should be diversity in unity. 'For there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' (Gal 3:28)
There’s a saying that “The young people are the church of tomorrow”. The church needs to stop seeing older people as the church of yesterday and instead show the world that we are all the church of today.
It's time for the church to change the way we view and value older people, both in our churches and our communities.
The church has the chance to be a trailblazer, reaching out to and serving the growing population of older people.
We have the chance to develop and establish ministries and programmes for the retired and the elderly.
We stand on the brink of massive social change. The church has an incredible opportunity to shine the light of the gospel as role models of intergenerational connectedness, enriching the lives of young and old alike.
Will you be part of this revolution?
Where Can I Get Started?
When meeting someone new, it's easy to be worried about running out of things to say.
Talking to older people, especially those living with memory loss, comes with it's own challenges. Asking questions, which require a factual response, can be difficult for the person, if they can't remember.
For example, asking their age, how many children they have or what they had for dinner, might be questions they're unable to answer.
Often it's the recent memories that older people are unable to access, yet they can clearly recall things that happened decades before.
The good news is that there are plenty of questions that you can ask an older person that don't rely on their recent memories, but refer to some of their older memories.
Here's some ideas of open-ended questions that can help to break the ice:
This type of question allows an older person to share some of their memories with you, without relying on specific memories they may be unable to access right now.
Why not try using one or more of these open-ended questions next time you're chatting to someone?
This started as a somewhat crazy idea at midnight. Thinking about the different ways that I've spent time with my own elderly parents, I wondered if it'd be possible to come up with a list of 101 ideas for ways that we can spend time with older people.
Visiting older people, either in their own homes or in care homes, isn't rocket science. Yet we can feel intimidated. We don't visit because feel as if we don't know what to do.
It's one of my regrets that I didn't go and see my elderly godmother until it was too late. These regrets helped me prioritise creating many beautiful memories with my dad, who passed away last year.
This list is a work in progress - you'll notice that there's not 101 things on the list ... yet!
Please can you HELP us build this post by sharing your ideas and experiences. How do you prefer to spend time with elderly relatives?
Help us create an amazing and useful list:
Please COMMENT below with your ideas, links to posts or suggestions, which we can then add to the list.
If you prefer, share your idea with us on social media - links below.
One village church in Norfolk, is making a real impact on the elderly in their community.
In a village of just 1489 residents (according to the 2011 census), with 20-30 regularly attending their weekly church services, size (or lack of it) has not deterred the team at St Mary's, Newton Flotman, from making a difference.
Last year they set up a Care Home Friends project, with volunteers going in regularly to visit elderly care home residents.
Volunteers visit weekly, talk about childhood memories, the news or sometimes take individual residents outside for a walk in their wheelchair. Special boxes, full of objects connected to topics they enjoy, help volunteers initiate and engage in conversation.
Once a month, the church baby and toddler group, Church Mice, meets in the care home. Residents and children sit around, talk and do crafts together. Everyone enjoys singing nursery rhymes together.
A small group from the church visit regularly to lead a communion service, which is well-attended by residents. For those unable to join in, the team visit residents in their rooms and are able to share communion and pray with them.
A number of care home residents are picked up and taken to the monthly community lunch in the church room, where they get to meet other village residents, both old and young.
There are occasional outings for the residents, where one of the team drives the minibus, to take residents on a day out. A recent outing to the seaside town of Southwold was well received, with beautiful sunny weather being an unexpected bonus.
With loneliness impacting over 8 million people in the UK, the church is involving older people in their community and creating opportunities for friendships to grow and blossom.
This small local church really seems to believe and act on the quote, that "helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person."
Community outreach worker, Andy Cox, says "We've had highs, such as being shortlisted for an award for our work at the Caring UK Awards. I've also been involved in end of life care for some and been involved in funerals which, although sad, has been a privilege." Andy is hoping to recruit more volunteers from the local area to help reach more older people in their community.
Head of Care at the home, says "We’re so grateful to everyone who makes such a difference to the daily lives of our residents".
What's impressive about what they're doing, is that it's just a handful of volunteers running everything - from the baby and toddler group, to the Care Home Friends project, the monthly communions and the occasional outings.
St Mary's Church, Newton Flotman, really are showing that the saying, "small is beautiful" is true, at least, for one Norfolk village.