The Pen Friend Group helps nursing home residents with dementia relive their childhood

The Pen Friend Group helps: A pen pal group between primary school pupils and residents with dementia at a care home has helped them relive their childhood and forge strong bonds.

The group, consisting of eight to 11-year-olds from Holgate Primary School and Nursery, and residents of Runwood Homes in Nabbs Lane, Hucknall, Nottingham, engage in activities such as letter writing and hour-long sessions filled with arts and crafts, playing cards, and reading.

Deborah Mills, Head of Wellbeing at Runwood Homes, expressed, “When I took on the role, I wrote to the school asking them to write to us, and we received a fantastic response. Strong bonds were formed, and on one occasion, the residents were painting rocks, and to our surprise, the children arrived with their own painted rocks to plant in our residents’ garden.”

The Pen Friend Group helps nursing home residents with dementia relive their childhood
The pen pal group helps to bring smiles to people’s faces (Joanne Bardgett/PA)

The children constantly learn from the residents, and although they only visit three times a year, the connections formed to make it feel like they have known each other for much longer. One resident, Melvin Clough, 82, has developed a great connection with a boy from the school, and their personalities align perfectly.

Melvin always asks about his “son” even when he’s not present. The project means the world to him, as he gets to relive his childhood and connect with the children on their level.

The intergenerational bond is heartwarming, as Melvin entertains the children with jokes and becomes a magnet for their attention. The joy and laughter that fill the room during their interactions are truly priceless.

The residents have also visited the school multiple times, facilitated by the use of a minibus. They attend school events, such as the Christmas concert and sports day, creating a reciprocal connection.

The Pen Friend Group helps nursing home residents with dementia
Freya with a resident at the care home (Joanne Bardgett/PA)

The sessions have been a learning curve for the children, initially met with some apprehension. However, they are now more comfortable and have gained a better understanding of the aging process.

The involvement of parents who work in care homes or have elderly parents in foster care has further enhanced the connections within the pen pal group.

Holgate pupils have shared their enjoyment of the group, expressing their excitement about hearing stories about the residents’ past and engaging in non-stop conversations. They find the interactions funny and cherish the opportunity to spend time together.

The pen pal group allows older people to have meaningful conversations when the children visit, creating a valuable exchange of experiences and perspectives.

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