Young people from three schools were celebrated at an awards event in a care home in Ipswich. The home and the West Suffolk charity that trained them to befriend people living with dementia laid on the event.
Sixth-form students from Ipswich School, St Alban’s Catholic High School and St Joseph’s College have been visiting residents at Prince of Wales House in Prince of Wales Drive since before Christmas.
Known as ‘YOPEY Befrienders’ they tend to visit weekly for an hour or two, join in activities with the residents, play games and have conversations with the elderly.
Founder of the Newmarket charity YOPEY, Tony Gearing MBE, said: “Keeping people with dementia mentally and physically active is believed to slow the progress of these terrible diseases.
“At the same time teenagers born in the 21st century are learning about the 20th century. Many people living in care homes nowadays were children in the Second World War. The young get to learn about the 1940s, 50s and 60s from people who were there.”
Prince of Wales House is owned by The Partnership In Care. Clinical Director Rachel Fitton said: “It has been such a pleasure to watch these young befrienders grow and develop relationships with those living within the home.
“Intergenerational friendships like these are truly symbiotic. With the breadth of skills and experience amongst our community here at Prince of Wales House, they love sharing with those starting out into adulthood, who are willing and enthusiastic to learn and develop as individuals.”
Seven teenagers from Ipswich School and St Joseph’s College were presented with certificates and rewards by the High Sheriff of Suffolk, Mark Pendlington. Seven teenagers from St Alban’s were unable to attend but have been sent rewards via school. Mark called all the YOPEY Befrienders “amazing”.
The certificates ranged from recognising the numbers of hours each young person had given to the elderly to marking extra special efforts by some of the young volunteers.
One teenager told the crowd of adults that included their teachers, residents and care workers about the time she and other YOPEY Befrienders joined in a coronation party at the home, in which a singer sang songs that were familiar to King Charles and the residents.
Seventeen-year-old Isabel said: “We were given ribbons and danced with residents to the Beatles and cockney songs. It was heartwarming to watch their souls reignited and the flooding of happy memories cued by the music. It was also really fascinating to listen to their stories due to their memories.”
Headmaster of Ipswich School, Nicholas Weaver, said: “I am so proud of our students. It was wonderful to hear their reflections on what they have learned, and to speak to the residents they had befriended about what a difference their visits had made.”
Principal Danielle Clarke pledged to encourage more St Joseph’s students to volunteer. “They gain so much experience, knowledge and confidence from YOPEY Befriender.”
From September new YOPEY Befrienders from St Joseph’s will visit Prince of Wales House while Ipswich School YOPEY Befrienders will visit a second Ipswich care home, Sherrington House in Sherrington Road.
Rachel added: “We look forward to welcoming more YOPEY Befrienders to Sherrington House, as well as Prince of Wales House, this autumn.”
YOPEY has invited other schools in Ipswich with sixth forms to take part as well as Suffolk One sixth form college.