Students from Ryecroft C.E. Middle School are stimulating memories and bringing laughter to residents thanks to a reading scheme that’s brought the two together.
Every Friday a group of year 7 and 8 pupils spend an hour with residents, reading to them and chatting, as well as playing games and doing crafts.
Their reading helps residents to relax, recall memories that bring them comfort and they enjoy the positive energy the young people bring.
“Our residents don’t always remember they’ve seen particular student,” said activities manager, Karen O’Moore, “but they always enjoy the sound of their voices and the stories they read.
“We can see how they relax with them and there’s often a lot of laughter. Being with the children helps them to think of younger family members or even their own childhoods.
“In those days, it was an exciting book and a torch under the bedclothes rather than a smart phone!”
The visits are something particularly enjoyed by Bill Smith, 92. He’s formed a special relationship with 11 year old Jack Moore, whose mum, Alison, is a senior carer at the home.
“Bill’s really nice, he’s really funny and we got on straight away,” said Jack. “I’ll be reading to him and suddenly he’ll remember something. We’ll talk about that for a bit, then carry on.
“I was a bit shy to start with as I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t really know anyone who has dementia, but Bill’s so easy to be with – he’s like a grandad.”
“I wish he came every day,” said Bill. “I love seeing all the children but he’s especially good company.”
The visits are part of the school’s ‘Options’ scheme – a lesson each week that pupils spend following an interest or learning a new skill.
“We weren’t sure how many children would take up the option of visiting a care home but there’s been great enthusiasm from the students,” said headteacher, Rachael Baramuszczak.
“We felt this was an important option for them. The school is just a mile away from Barrowhill Hall so it is a way for our pupils to contribute something very positive to their community. It gives them an immense amount of pride and satisfaction.”
The pupils largely spend their time in the main lounge but will take books up to residents who find it difficult to leave their rooms.
12 year old Zara Jackson is another of the students who chose to visit Barrowhill Hall.
“I wanted to come here to help me build my confidence,” she said. “I love talking to the residents and they really listen to me when I read to them.
“And it’s great to know that I’m doing something that makes them happy.”