Teenagers befriend lonely care home residents with dementia

YOPEY Befrienders. In the group photograph are Bea Cooper, Jodi-ellen Finnimore, Jade Hollis, David

YOPEY Befrienders. In the group photograph are Bea Cooper, Jodi-ellen Finnimore, Jade Hollis, David ketteringham, Lauren Sim, Grace Stenson, Ellie Thulborn, Sophie Wet and Natasha Wojtowych Mills. Picture: YOPEY - Credit: Archant

Teenagers from a Fenland school have been trained to support elderly people in the community living with dementia.

The Neale-Wade Academy students were recruited by the charity Young People of the Year, YOPEY, to befriend residents of Clovelly House and Springfield where around two thirds of the residents have dementia.

Many are lonely and some do not get any visitors.

The 14 and 15 year olds were trained by Tony Gearing, founder of East Anglian based YOPEY.

Tony, a former national newspaper journalist, said: “It can be quite daunting at first to make conversation with someone with dementia. But following the training and with further support from YOPEY and the care home staff, I hope students will fill the gaps in the hearts of lonely residents.”

He added: “Having served young people, I now want to help young people to serve the elderly and possibly create the best inter-generational scheme in the country.

“The partnership between Neale-Wade Academy and the town’s care homes is in its early days, but I hope the paths between school and care homes will become well trodden.”

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The aim is that the young people will visit the care home residents weekly for up to a year, and then could be replaced by volunteers from the year below.

The charity now focuses on the dementia befriender scheme and is running a dozen across the country.

This is the first of its kind in Fenland.

Bea Cooper, 14, said: “We learned about the different types of dementia and how to act and what to say around someone with dementia.”

During their first care home visit, Sophie West, 14, spoke to a woman who had served in the Second World War.

She said: “We talked about her role in the war. She was in the Red Cross as a nurse. Her husband’s role was in the RAF.”

Head of Year 10, Neil Tuffin, said: “Their participation has generated a really positive buzz.

“I am very confident that both young and old will get a lot of comfort and positivity from future visits.”

Iain Russell, manager of Clovelly House, said: “Our residents enjoyed the first visit by the youngsters. They are now looking forward to them coming back regularly.”

The Fenland YOPEY Dementia Befriender scheme is part funded by a grant from The Evelyn Trust, named after the former private hospital in Cambridge.