Sheffield toddlers bring joy to elderly care home


Last month a group of children from Abbeydale Cottage Nursery in Sheffield took a trip to visit the elderly residents of The Callywhite Care Home in Dronfield.

The visit was initiated by Fiona Gallagher, Child Practitioner at Abbeydale Cottage Nursery. Fiona was inspired by a Channel 4 programme that documented an intergenerational experiment demonstrating the benefits of pre-school children spending time with the elderly.

Fiona Gallagher explained: “I have been working with children for over 20 years and have learned a lot about their emotional development but this documentary really interested me.  Recent studies have shown that the elderly can often revert back to their early childhood emotional state, having less inhibitions, and feeling more comfortable to play and sing.  It makes sense that elderly people will feel most comfortable with younger children.” 

She continued: “Many residents may not have young grandchildren so this visit was very special.  Many of our children at the nursery have relatively young grandparents and do not have the opportunity to spend time with elderly people.  The benefits of this initiative is certainly positive for everyone!”

The Callywhite Care Home, part of The Green Care Group, was more than keen to take part, having also seen the documentary and been inspired by it.

Julie Reaney, Deputy Manager at The Callywhite said: “When Fiona contacted us with the idea, there was no hesitation in getting involved.  We have recognised for a long time how beneficial it is to our residents when children come to visit.  Our residents absolutely love it. A group of 10 children, aged 2 and 3 visited The Callywhite last week.  The children and residents were immediately drawn to one another and played together through a series of games and sing-a-longs.  The children were more than happy to play with the balloons and musical instruments and the residents too joined in with balloon games, singing, clapping and even joining in with the ‘Hokey Cokey’.

Julie Reaney added: “ The residents and staff have all been looking forward to the nursery visit but we were feeling a little apprehensive too.  We weren’t sure how the residents or the children would react but it really couldn’t have worked out better.  The children showed no inhibitions at all and all of our residents were joining in with singing and playing – two ladies even got down on floor to do “Row, row your boat”! – It’s been truly marvelous.”

Chris Cummins, Activity Co-ordinator at The Callywhite said: “It’s wonderful to see the reactions of the residents.  Some are living with severe Dementia and aren’t always able to respond in social situations but seeing the children, has made their eyes light up.  One gentlemen had tears in his eyes, he enjoyed it so much.”

A programme has already been put in place for the children to visit the care home regularly.  The nursery will return later this month for a Christmas sing-a-long.


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