The GIFT started in 2018 when Fiona Taylor, Work Placement Officer at Activate Learning, was inspired by the Channel 4 documentary, Old People’s Homes for 4 Year Olds.
GIFT stands for Generations Interacting and making Friends Together.
The GIFT is run by Health and Social Care and Early Years students at Reading College and University Centre. The students organise practical and inspiring activities for the children and elderly care home residents to take part in and engage with each other. All activities are supported and closely monitored by the college’s experienced teaching staff.
The GIFT takes place at St Luke’s Care Home in Caversham, Reading. Children from two local nurseries attend, The Wigwam Day Nursery and Berkeley Gardens Day Nursery. Four sessions take place during the academic year.
After being suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, staff and students from Reading College and University Centre were pleased to resume this exciting collaboration in February, which provides an opportunity to unite generations.
Activities for all ages
The students recently celebrated a successful academic year by organising activities for the young children from the nurseries and the residents from the care home to take part in.
The morning’s activities included free play and crafts to encourage the young children, students, staff and residents to interact with each other. The students introduced everyone to each other with their hello song.
Afterwards, two of the students read The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. Some of the students took the children on a treasure hunt where they had to find characters from the story who had been hidden around the care home’s garden, while other students served refreshments to the residents who had stayed in the care home’s lounge.
The children also had a tour of the care home, which allowed them to greet to other residents.
The three generations then came together again to have lunch and celebrate with some songs, before singing goodbye to each other.
An eye-opening experience
Rachael Smith, 18, from Slough, is studying an Early Years Level 3 Extended Diploma at Reading College and University Centre.
She said: “Taking part in The GIFT has been an eye-opening experience, because you see how children’s development mirrors this stage in the residents’ lives. For example, there’s a lot of communication issues which we see with small children, which some of the residents have as well.
“It makes you consider things that you wouldn’t have thought about, such as engagement, the fine motor skills and physical abilities of a lot of the children and residents and how you can adapt those activities to suit, which we will use all the time as future childcare practitioners.”
Katie is studying an Early Years Level 3 Extended Diploma at Reading College and University Centre.
She said: “It helps to bring the residents and the children together to help them to develop. It not only benefits them, but it benefits us too.”
Marjorie Warden is one of the residents at St Luke’s Care Home in Caversham.
She said: “I always enjoy the children visiting us. It’s nice. They smile and have fun.
“We join in with them if we can. I like children and I joined in with everything I could.”
A fantastic opportunity
Fiona Taylor, Work Placement Officer at Activate Learning, said: “The GIFT is a fantastic opportunity for the very young, young and older generations to come together.
“It provides an opportunity for the students to learn about and understand Dementia, while planning activities that benefit both the very young and the elderly.
“The project is an excellent way to work with the local community and for our students to put theory into practice. It helps them to consider the individual needs of the children and care home residents.
“The students can also develop their communication, organisation, teamwork, collaboration, professional and leadership skills, which are vital for the workplace, while having fun at the same time.”
Feel part of the local community
Kim Franks, Manager at St Luke’s Care Home, said: “The GIFT is an excellent addition to the residents’ engagement and wellbeing.
“They love seeing the children, chatting, playing and having a lot of fun with them.
“They also get to spend time with the college students and nursery assistants, which helps them to feel part of the local community. It’s lovely to see the smiles on everyone’s faces during and at the end of each session.”
What it means for the children
Maria Hine, Nursery Manager at Berkeley Gardens Day Nursery, said: “The GIFT Project has been a lovely experience and it has been amazing to watch both generations interacting.
“The children have loved talking about their experiences with their families.”
Aurora Gibilaro, Pre-school Lead and Deputy Manager at The Wigwam Day Nursery, said: “The GIFT has been such an amazing initiative to get involved in. It’s very well organised.
“Everyone who participates feels part of a wider community. Our children loved the whole experience of visiting the residents at the care home and after a few sessions became very comfortable in this environment. They made friends and could remember their names.
“Every session, they have been looking forward to visiting the residents and discovering what activities the Reading College students had organised for them. Thanks so much!”
Discover our Early Years programmes available to study at Reading College or contact us on 0800 612 6008.