We should all take our hats off to St Monica Trust and Bath University for the way they brought to life, on national television, the benefits of bringing young children into care settings for older people. Older people and 4 year olds was broadcast by Channel 4 at the prime time of 9 pm and has received universal acclaim for how it highlighted some of the challenges of later life and a creative and positive way of overcoming them. Running a nursery for 4 year olds for 6 weeks inside the care setting was a brave thing for St Monica’s to do but they clearly did their research, planned it well and had fantastic academic support. Seeing the growing levels of motivation, additional mobility and sheer delight on the resident’s faces was TV at its best. Credit also needs to go to the pre-school practitioners who showed their skills in handling both the children and the residents with ease and empathy.
I am heartened by the level of interest from TV producers, public and social care professionals alike as all too often this aspect of care – meaningful engagement – has been seen as a nice extra and not crucial to health and well-being.
I can’t wait to see the research written up and any follow up work planned. At NAPA we are always keen to find and share evidence of the impact of meaningful engagement. St Monica’s have been NAPA members for many years and have always been at the forefront of innovation, always looking to support their residents the best way possible.
In the last few years we have been invited to act as consultants for more and more care providers who are turning their attention to this aspect of care. We like to think that we have contributed to this as we have spent 20 years as a charity promoting the importance of the quality of life alongside quality care.
I hope this programme will inspire other providers to be as innovative and creative. Undoubtedly they will need to step out of their comfort zones and take some calculated risks. The benefits for residents and carers alike could well outweigh any of the challenges. The health benefits for residents could even help take pressure off of our National Health Service if we can reduce falls and consequent hospital admissions.
NAPA is an umbrella organisation for many others that promote mobility and physical activity for older people along with arts and drama practitioners. We are working at the moment with Comic Relief who have just committed significant grant funds to projects that will meet these needs. We also train care staff in how to support activity provision and have seen a significant growth in uptake of these courses. This leads me to believe that we have turned a corner in how everyone perceives the needs of older people living in care settings. I am sure that this TV programme has done a great deal to add to that groundswell of interest. We should all say a very big thank you to the residents of St Monica’s and to Bath University.