Dormy House Toddler Group: The magic of children visiting care homes

Dormy House Care Home in Sunningdale is transforming the care of its residents in a very special way. Every week, the care home opens its doors to a number of young children for their popular toddler group.

Mutually benefical interaction

We first came across the idea of toddler groups in old people’s homes after seeing the popular Channel 4 documentary ‘Old People’s Home for 4 year olds’. In this programme,  young people and old connected for play and socialisation. The connection is great from a social aspect, gives them something to look forward to and toddler interaction is also said to reverse dementia in the elderly. Last year, we saw a Facebook post about a local care home running a toddler group and wanted to find out more.

Bringing toddlers and the elderly is nothing new, an article in the Japan Times stated that the first ever (known) group was introduced in Japan in 1976, and the idea soon spread worldwide. Two of the most common issues in care homes can be loneliness and boredom. Adopters of such schemes noticed a marked improvement in both when toddlers interacted with old people.

Little rays of sunshine

The arrival of the toddlers to the Dormy House Toddler Group in Sunningdale is always a noisy but welcome event. The children are like little rays of sunshine who brighten up the room and make the residents smile. The residents can choose to participate and for those that do, they keep coming back for more.

Dormy House care home specialises in residential nursing, dementia and palliative care. The toddler group began in late 2017 and has proved so popular that it is held twice a week. Toddlers are invited to play in a large bright and airy room amongst the old people who have great delight in watching them play and interacting.

Playtime for all

Charlotte, who is one of the activity coordinators at Dormy House explains:

“As far as the session goes – The morning is very laid back. We always go with the flow and take the lead from our residents! Basically grab a tea, coffee and biscuit and enjoy!

Some residents are very chatty and interact a lot, others prefer to observe and enjoy the environment. We also have residents who cannot verbally communicate due to the progression of dementia, but their faces light up when they see the children.

We always have story time, where a resident will read to the children. There is colouring in and lots of toys to play with (a tunnel, rocking horses, ball pit etc.). We have nursery rhymes and action songs which both the children and residents enjoy and we usually finish off by getting the parachute out, which adds a bit of exercise into the mix.”

Our experience

One lady even reads a story at every group, which captivates the toddlers due to her enthusiasm. It is so nice to see the children and old people interacting so well. The toddlers have someone to play with and listen to their ramblings. The old people have the benefit of having a visit to look forward to and also enjoy spending time with the children, which may evoke memories and thoughts of their own children and grandchildren.

Parents attending with their children also interact well with the elderly and it is nice to hear their point of view. The parents, children and residents have all built up a nice relationship together and from our point of view it almost feels like visiting family! Prior to having our daughter, I used to volunteer on hospital radio where part of my job was visiting the elderly on hospital wards which I loved. Having a child prevents me from going out in the evenings regularly, but this is something I can do with her. She enjoys the interaction and I enjoy seeing this. I also find by entertaining our little one, being out and about with others also helps prevent toddler tantrums. Above all, I also feel like I am doing good by visiting and being there for our elderly friends.

What do those who attend think?

Anne Wood, a resident in her 80’s who attends every single group says:

“The group is a wonderful thing. I enjoy playing with the children and love it when they sit on my lap and I can read to them. I live for the days on which the group is held.”

Laura, from Ascot, has been coming along since it began last year and regularly attends with her daughters Beth (3) and Lyla (4 months). During the holidays, she also brings along her other two children Bradley (7) and Faye (5). She says:

“I’ve been coming since August 2017 and it is always lovely to see everyone smiling. You can see that having the children here brings back memories of parenthood and their maternal instincts really come out.To see them watch and interact with the children playing is amazing.”

Where can I find out more?

The toddler group (at time of writing) runs on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10-11.30am. You can find out more by liking the New Dormy House Toddler Group Facebook page, where you can find the latest updates.

We hope you enjoyed this blog. What does the interaction of young and old people mean to you? Have you experienced a group such as this? Do let us know in the comments box below or by connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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