An innovative intergenerational art project, aimed at connecting older people living in care homes with children at local schools, is reducing loneliness and proving stimulation to care home residents in the south west. The scheme, known as Paint Pals, was first developed in 2011 and enables older people and children to communicate through the use of painted postcards, to stimulate the feeling of excitement that many people will have experienced when receiving a letter from a pen pal as a child.
As well as the enjoyment of receiving cards, the care home residents, many of whom have dementia, participate in groups to create their own cards and receive regular visits from the school children involved in Paint Pals, which brings multiple benefits from their engagement with the project. Read on to learn more about Paint Pals and the ways that your own residents can benefit from increased involvement with local schools and community groups.
The Paint Pals project was developed by Alive!, a charity which describes itself as ‘dedicated to improving the quality of life of older people in care through meaningful activities.’ There are currently 13 schemes in operation across the south west, allowing children from the age of 6 to participate through their primary school and, in some cases, the schemes are so popular that there are now waiting lists from those wanting to get involved. Some children, along with their parents, have begun to visit the residents they write to and the benefits to the lives of those residents involved have been widely praised.
3 Tips to Improve Your Own Residents’ Quality of Life through Community Engagement
- Pen pal schemes. Similarly to the Paint Pals scheme, facilitating letter writing or the exchanging of cards or emails between residents and school pupils can provide a point of interest and encourage engagement with the wider world outside the care home. In particular, residents who have little or no family will often welcome letters or cards to mark special occasions that they may otherwise have not received.
- Dining groups. One thing that care homes and schools often have in common is that lunch time is a focal point of the day, when the community gets together to socialise. Inviting children from a local school to visit the care home for lunch on occasions and possibly arranging a return visit for residents to eat in the school dining hall as ‘VIP guests’, can provide excellent opportunities for intergenerational socialising and friendship.
- Voluntary groups. Groups, such as Scouts and Guides, often need to complete tasks to earn badges and awards and care homes can provide an excellent opportunity to gain this experience. With badges available for activities as diverse as musician, chef and interpreter, scouts and guides may welcome the chance to meet people who will appreciate their efforts and perhaps share their own knowledge and experience.