The Impact of the Pure Positive love of children
I recently watched a documentary on channel 4 called “Old Peoples Home for Four Year Olds” where 10 pre-school nursery children aged 4 years visited a care home for the elderly. What a fabulous documentary it was and watching first-hand the very positive impact and measureable improvement this experience/ interaction had on the older residents was truly amazing. We live in a society today where the young and old are increasingly segregated and it is becoming more and more rare for these two generations to come together. I do believe this is a problem of today and not a historic problem, when it was quite natural and normal for large families to come together regularly with the young looking after the older relatives within the family. We don’t see this as much now and social isolation in the elderly is, regretfully, becoming more and more of a problem. They call this interaction of the two generations “non-familial intergenerational interaction”. Basically, a simple concept of young meeting old.
I hope others reading this article saw the programme, if not it is certainly worth watching on catch up. We are all familiar with the term “Grumpy Old Man” and one gentleman featured on the programme made it quite clear that he did not want to participate with the children and was quite adamant that his age, mobility and the fact he had a prosthetic leg would mean it was impossible for him to be involved in active play with the children. Not long after this comment he was on the floor playing with the children roaring and pretending to be a lion, his health issues seemingly forgotten, the children loved it as much as he appeared to.
Another gentleman referred to the home as “Gods Waiting Room” as they sat confined to their armchairs looking very frail and isolated. Before this experiment took place most of the residents were suffering from some level of depression, in some instances not seeing a future for themselves, more than half the residents feeling their life was hopeless. Following the experiment and after the interactions with the children, almost all of the residents reported big improvements in their physical and psychological well-being and generally having a much more positive outlook on life.
Psalm 127: 3-5 “Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward”
Perhaps the most important lesson we can take from this experiment is that without love, whether this be of a child, a friend, a partner or family member, we become isolated and in turn can become depressed
From a personal perspective we did something very similar at our care home, when we took a small group of children from our nursery to visit the residents. We saw the very positive impact this had on our elderly residents, but also how this experience benefitted the children and how they loved these interactions with the residents. Parents reported back that the children had told them that they had met a new friend called Olive and she was a teacher and they drew pictures and painted together, one little boy went home talking about his “new friends” he had met and how they made spiders together for Halloween. Absolutely heart-warming!
Recent research revealed that it is a very sad fact that at least 40,000.elderly people in care homes in England are living in social isolation. As many as 13,000 are completely without kith or kin and receive no letters, calls or visits at all. How sad when they have lost so much already, their homes, possibly their partners, their independence and their memory. No-one to stimulate them or remind them of who they are or were. This experiment where the children visited the care home did exactly that.
By these pure, positive and non-judgemental interactions with the residents the children reminded the residents of who they are, who they used to be, what they loved to do and the very positive power of the love, social interaction and the attention of another on their lives. Perhaps they started to find out once again who they truly are without any judgement in relation to their age or infirmity.
Psalm 71.7 “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent”
Children provide a very pure, positive love and the small demonstration of holding our hand can give us immense happiness and feeling of self-worth. This was clearly demonstrated in the programme when one of the residents said “to find a child’s hand in yours is one of the most moving things that can happen to you”. Special relationships developed between certain children and certain residents. Four year old Millie formed a special relationship with Hamish and she describes him as “her favourite person”, no judgement of his age or his infirmity but purely “her favourite person”, with whom she interacts and plays games with. Each child built particular special bonds with particular residents and the impact of those bonds on those residents was truly amazing.
We will certainly continue with our nursery visits to the care home and look to develop even more special bonds with our residents and children who provide that very pure, positive non-judgemental love.
“Children are the hands by which we take hold of Heaven” Rev. Henry Ward Beecher