Fenland teens trained to befriend care home residents with dementia
Teenagers from a Fenland school have been trained to be ‘YOPEY Befrienders’ and make friends with elderly people living with dementia.
The 14-15 year-olds from Neale-Wade Academy were recruited by the East Anglian charity YOPEY and trained by YOPEY founder Tony Gearing at the March secondary school.
Later that same day they paid their first visit to Clovelly House, one of two care homes in March that will be welcoming the teenagers.
About two-thirds of the residents of Clovelly House, Station Road, and Springfield, The Causeway, have dementia. Many are lonely and some do not get any visitors.
At the end of their training the nine year 10s were made ‘YOPEY Befrienders’ by Mr Gearing, who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2017 'for services to young people in the UK'.
"Having served young people," said Tony, "I now want to help young people to serve the elderly and possibly create the best intergenerational scheme in the country."
Tony added: "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."
The aim is that the young people will visit the care home residents for an hour a week for up to a year, and then could be replaced by volunteers from the year below them at the Wimblington Road school.
YOPEY, which is based in Newmarket, Suffolk, is short for Young People of the Year. Tony, a former national newspaper journalist, has previously run Young People of the Year campaigns in Cambridgeshire and other counties. The charity now focuses on YOPEY Dementia Befriender and is running a dozen schemes across the country but most are in the East of England which Tony wants to make a 'Beacon for Befriending'.
This is the first YOPEY Dementia Befriender scheme in Fenland, but Tony hopes there will be more.
To the young volunteers from Neale-Wade, Tony 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 you will fill the gaps in the hearts of lonely residents.”
The young volunteers write reports about their visits on the web app yopeybefriender.org where the public can see leaderboards of the top YOPEY Befrienders in the country.
Bea Cooper, 14, said: "We learned about the different types of dementia and how to act and what to say around someone with dementia."
Head of year 10, Neil Tuffin, said: "Their participation in the befriender scheme has generated a really positive buzz with all those who attended. 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 visits. They are now looking forward to them coming back regularly. The interaction between the older people and the teenagers is very much appreciated by our residents' families.”
The Fenland YOPEY Dementia Befriender scheme is part funded by a grant from The Evelyn Trust, named after the former private hospital in Cambridge.