YOPEY has notched up the 2,000th care home it is supporting for free since the start of the pandemic.
Before coronavirus, this small, registered charity worked in about a dozen homes a year. The charity would recruit and train older schoolchildren to befriend elderly people living with dementia, and support them to visit a care home near their school.
The intergenerational scheme contributed to many of the homes YOPEY worked with being upgraded by the CQC.
When care homes were closed to visitors at the start of the pandemic, YOPEY founder Tony Gearing MBE thought the charity might fold. “But I came up with the idea of showing our young volunteers how to write letters – something many of the internet generation have never done before. And the young people themselves suggested making crosswords and word searches for the locked-down residents to do, as they had seen the elderly doing these when they were able to visit.”
As well as emailing packs of letters and activities to care homes, YOPEY and the young people have also made short variety shows that can be seen on YouTube and artistic youngsters have been sharing their art and even painting portraits of residents from photos supplied by their care homes.
All materials are shared digitally to absolutely avoid transmitting the virus on surfaces.
“Everything is aimed at stimulating conversations in care homes and sparking reminisces,” said Tony. “And the reports we are getting back from care homes suggest we are achieving that.”
“We think that YOPEY is wonderful and all of your young people are so kind, generous and inspirational,” said Cambridge Manor, a care home in the TLC group.
One of the early joiners to the free scheme was the ExcelCare group of care homes. “The people living at ExcelCare homes have been thankful for the relationship that they have cultivated with YOPEY over the last few years,” said a manager. “The YOPEY Befrienders have sent the people living at our homes so many letters, quizzes, drawings and puzzles each month, and the residents always look forward to their deliveries. They have been such valuable resources over the pandemic and have helped everyone in the home feel connected and loved.”
Bigger groups have also got involved, including HC-One and Four Seasons. “You have really helped our residents through this awful pandemic,” reported Harper Fields, a Barchester care home in Coventry. “We have enjoyed reading your lovely letters to each other over a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake. The puzzles have really helped to keep our minds active. Your pictures have been fabulous. You’ve helped make us all feel very special.”
A few residents are able to reply to letter writers and penpal friendships have become established. Other residents give feedback with the help of carers. When a care home feeds back for the first time, it is awarded a Partnership certificate by YOPEY, which it can show to residents’ relatives and the CQC.
YOPEY materials have also got residents out of their chairs and moving. “Our residents loved the singalong video on YouTube, especially the Hokey Cokey which they danced and sang along to,” reported Delves Court, a Select Healthcare care home in Walsall
The number of care and nursing homes that YOPEY sends the young people’s materials to grew to several hundred in the first lockdown. It passed 1,000 by early 2021 and now, in early 2022, it has reach 2,000.
Some care homes have joined from abroad, including a few in Ireland. However the furthest care home is in Australia.
“We spent quite a bit of time today pleasantly submerged in word games. We had a great time – thank you for helping to keep my voracious residents entertained and engaged, Please keep doing what you’re doing,” said Montcler care home in Clermont, Queensland.
Tony added: “We are looking for one more round of care homes to join for free. After that we will be charging a modest monthly subscription fee. We are thinking £5 as we need to generate income to keep this service going.”