Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds

Uncover the social and physical benefits of the hit TV show.

If you’ve enjoyed the Channel 4 series called Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds, then you may be feeling inspired to find out more about the impact of children on older adults. If you haven’t seen any of the series, it is both fascinating and heart-warming viewing, and you can watch past episodes here.

Old meets young

The basic premise of the two series was to investigate the impact that extended exposure to the very young had on care home residents. In a nutshell, a preschool moved into a residential care home for a period of time as we watch powerful friendships between young and old formed. What’s more, the older adults experienced improvements in mood and physical ability.

The benefits of intergenerational care

The benefits of intergenerational care vary depending on the individual. However, some of the positive experiences include:

  • Extended networks: Families with young children may live far from extended family. Additionally, older adults may be separated from their extended families, or, in some cases, never had children themselves. Both parties therefore benefit from extending relationships across generations which is missing in modern society.
  • Improved mobility: Older adults were seen in the TV experiments to experience improved mobility as they joined in activities, walks and excursions with the children. In fact, one walker user was seen to run at the end of the experiment!
  • Improved cognition: Interacting regularly with young children, and helping them with their activities and development, help to stretch the older person’s cognition.
  • Sense of purpose: Many elderly people lose a sense of purpose when they move into a care home. Helping with the children reignites a purpose in life.
  • Reduced loneliness: One of the most interesting elements of the TV experiments was that networks forged between the older residents with friendships blossoming. The connection through the children appeared to bring together the older residents in a way that hadn’t previously occurred.
  • Improved mood: In the experiments, many of the older adults were experiencing depression and low mood. However, this radically improved over the course of the experiment.

How to benefit older adults by facilitating contact with young children

Not many care homes in the UK have a preschool within them! Does this mean that our older residents can’t benefit from intergenerational care? We think it’s time to get creative with how we enable intergenerational connections between young children and older adults.

The first and most obvious port of call is to facilitate relationships within families, even when a grandparent, great grandparent, or great aunt or uncle are in a care home, even if they are suffering from dementia.

There is a fear amongst society that keeps young children away from care homes for concern that they will disturb the residents or find it boring or distressing. Given we know this isn’t the case, encouraging relationships shouldn’t be a prime concern. When you visit your relative, bring along your children, but bring activities which they can share. Jigsaws, simple board games, and arts and crafts can give the visit purpose. You can also choose to share a meal, or take your resident out to a local attraction.

If you are connected with local clubs and societies, such as Rainbows, Beavers, Brownies and Cubs, encourage events where the children mix with residents of a local care home. Singing concerts, afternoon tea, or history sessions can appeal to all age groups.

Join a befriending service.  Give up your time to help alleviate loneliness, and in time you may forge friendships between the older adult and your entire family.

The magic of young children

Young children don’t have fixed agendas or prejudices yet. By allowing and enabling them to mix with older adults they develop empathy, compassion and emotional maturity. They benefit from the gift of time, which an older person has in abundance. Sharing a meal can easily become the highlight of an older person’s week.

If you’ve not seen the two Channel 4 series called Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds then you can watch it here. If you’d like to join a family member for a meal at one of our Eastleigh care homes, please speak to our staff at your next visit.