When young met old - teenagers become 'dementia befrienders'
PUBLISHED: 16:41 04 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:41 04 April 2019
Teenagers from an Ipswich school have been trained make friends with elderly dementia sufferers as part of a bid to "create the best intergenerational scheme in the country".
The sixth-formers from Northgate High School were recruited by Stradishall-based charity Young People of the Year (YOPEY) and trained by its founder, Tony Gearing MBE, to be “dementia befrienders” at The Willows care home in Ipswich.
About two-thirds of The Willows’ 60-plus residents have dementia, many are lonely and some do not get any visitors.
“Having served young people, I now want to help young people to serve the elderly,” said Mr Gearing.
“We are aiming to create the best intergenerational scheme in the country.
“The partnership between Northgate High and The Willows is in its early days, but I hope it will become a well-trodden path between school and care home.”
YOPEY previously ran Young People of the Year campaigns in Suffolk and other counties.
It now focuses on YOPEY Dementia Befriender and is running 15 schemes across the country, with most in the East of England.
The young volunteers write reports about their visits on the web app yopeybefriender.org, where the public can see leaderboards of the top YOPEY Dementia Befrienders in the country.
Libby Moss, 16, wrote of the session: “This was really helpful and informative and has really inspired me to regularly go to the care home and create a unique bond with someone.”
To the young volunteers from Northgate High, Mr Gearing said: “It can be quite daunting at first to make conversation with someone with dementia.
Northgate head of sixth form, John Alexander, said: “This is a great opportunity for students and I’m very pleased that so many are taking part.
“Young people are keen to give something back to the community and schemes like YOPEY are great for getting them involved.”
Kelvin Freeland, the manager of The Willows, said: “We are looking forward to working with YOPEY and Northgate High School sixth-form students.
“Having the young people in the home is a great for our residents. We are confident both generations will gain a lot from each visit and learn respect for one another. This is a great scheme – long may it continue.”
Mr Gearing wants to make Suffolk the “beacon for befriending”, with five schemes already running in West Suffolk.