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Educational win-win: Dementia care home opens a pre-school center for children

‘I was mindful of Jacob missing out on how much you can learn from people of different ages’ … Jacob Farrell-Ogunyemi and Margaret Darby. (CREDIT: Fabio De Paola)

In England, a dementia care village has embraced the idea of community support by incorporating a day nursery for young children, fostering interaction and mutual learning between different generations.

Belong, a non-profit organization specializing in dementia care, operates senior homes across the country, particularly in the northwest and West Midlands regions. Their latest venture is a pioneering facility that not only provides care for older individuals but also integrates a daycare center for children.


Partnering with the UK charity Ready Generations, Belong has created a unique environment where residents can live independently while enjoying the company of children.

The village offers various amenities such as shops and services, aiming to support older people in maintaining an active lifestyle. Children participate in daily activities with the residents, including shared meals, storytelling, arts and crafts, and exercise sessions, providing stimulation and joy to both generations.


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At Belong, fostering a sense of community is paramount, which is why there's no uniform for staff. Every interaction is carefully overseen by caregivers and nursery staff to ensure a safe and inclusive environment.

Residents are consulted daily about their willingness to receive young visitors and are never left alone with the children. For those unable to visit the nursery, a special red postbox in the reception allows them to send messages to the children.


Alan Hyde and his wife, Diana, both 82, regularly invite children to their apartment to meet their pet budgie, Joey. Despite Diana's battle with Alzheimer’s, her love for children remains unwavering. Alan recounts how bringing her to the nursery on tough days acts like a switch, instantly brightening her mood.

Children participate in daily activities with the residents, including shared meals, storytelling, arts and crafts, and exercise sessions, providing stimulation and joy to both generations. (CREDIT: Belong Chester / Ready Generations)

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging, but Alan has found solace in the community at Belong. His circle of friends has grown since moving in, and even his neighbors have noticed a positive change in his demeanor. The connection between the older residents and the children is reciprocal, with the latter brightening up whenever they see Diana.


The integration of young and old at Belong has had a profound impact on both groups. Parents of nursery children have observed increased empathy and compassion in their kids, attributing it to their interactions with older residents. For instance, Jacob, just three years old, shows concern for his pregnant mother's health after witnessing the care given to his "grandfriends" at Belong.

A calming presence … Bill Wall has lunch with toddlers from the nursery. (CREDIT: Fabio De Paola)

Initially skeptical, some older residents, like Dorothy Hulford, have embraced the intergenerational activities wholeheartedly. Dorothy, crafting clay with a toddler named Alfie, admits her initial doubts but now relishes her time in the nursery, feeling honored to be accepted by the children.


Belong’s innovative approach to intergenerational activities, such as "prambles" along the canal, has become a highlight for residents of all ages. Led by enthusiastic participants like Ralph Barnes, these walks demonstrate the mutual trust and companionship fostered within the community.

‘I love the children’ … residents join the nursery’s toddlers for singing. (CREDIT: Fabio De Paola)

Despite initial reservations, Belong's CEO, Martin Rix, emphasizes the importance of providing enriching experiences for older residents. The integration of the nursery adds depth to their quality of life, promoting joy and fulfillment.


The transformation seen in older residents, described as "unfurling" by staff like Egersdorff, underscores the profound impact of intergenerational interaction. From closed-off to open and engaged, these individuals blossom within the nurturing environment of Belong.

Going for a ‘pramble’ … Ralph Barnes and Sam Mort, a nursery staff member, take a group of toddlers on a walk. (CREDIT: Fabio De Paola)

Recently, the Lord Mayor of Cheshire, Sheila Little, officially inaugurated the village, praising its innovative approach. Little emphasized the benefits for both children and residents, highlighting the significance of this integration.


Unlike traditional care facilities, this state-of-the-art village, costing $24.5 million, features six family-sized 24-hour care households, 23 independent living apartments, and a daycare center. It boasts a vibrant hub of amenities, such as a bistro, hair salon, and exercise studio, creating a lively atmosphere open to the public.

‘I’ve got more friends than before’ … Alan Hyde shows off his pet budgie, Joey. (CREDIT: Fabio De Paola)

Belong Chester marks the eighth village in the organization's network and the fourth in Cheshire County, joining other sites in Crewe, Macclesfield, and Warrington.


Similar initiatives have been undertaken in the United States, like the Intergenerational Learning Center at Mount St. Vincent nursing home in Seattle. Established in 2015, this center brings together older adults and young children in various activities, fostering interaction and mutual support among different age groups.

For more science news stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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