Volunteering with the Elderly | Revealing, Recognising and Rewarding Positive Role Models

First YOPEY Befriender scheme in Cambs since pandemic

First YOPEY Befriender scheme in Cambs since pandemic

Huntingdon teenagers have begun befriending elderly people living with dementia at a care home in the Cambridgeshire town.

The 12 16-17 year-olds from Cambridge Regional College’s Huntingdon campus and Hinchingbrooke School have met residents at Hunters Down care home, Hartford Road, for the first of what is planned to be many visits over the coming months.

YOPEY believes this YOPEY Befriender scheme is the first “intergenerational” befriending scheme between young and old in Cambridgeshire since the pandemic.

Hunters Down is owned by Excelcare, whose Chief Operating Office Sam Manning said: “The support and joy that YOPEY Befrienders provide is extremely special. Each incredible young person this charity recruits and trains not only boosts wellbeing for the people who live at Hunters Down, but also become beloved intergenerational connections, bringing happiness and meaning to each person – connections that bloom into wonderful friendships.

“We are forever grateful to this delightful group of people for the ongoing, unwavering support they provide to our team and the people who live at Hunters Down.”

Excelcare owns 31 care homes with 11 of them in Cambridgeshire.

Femi Solano, head of year 12 at Hinchingbrooke School, said: “It is wonderful to see our sixth-form students taking part in YOPEY Befriender. Our sixth formers have shown great empathy, interest, patience and kindness when interacting with the older generation and it is great to see them care for the community and build bonds with their elderly friends so quickly whilst discussing their ambitions so far and experiences in life.

“I would highly recommend the YOPEY befriender scheme to other sixth forms to enrich their students also.”

For CRC, its Professional Practice Assessor Donna Grant said: “Our students at Cambridge Regional College have embraced being part of YOPEY.
The students are able to gain and improve on so many interpersonal skills and are aware of the positive impact their visits have on the residents of the care home.

“We are looking forward to further collaboration with the charity to engage more of our students and support this great cause.”

Pearl Ewing, a YOPEY trustee and a retired care home executive, attended one of the first visits and was particularly impressed how a YOPEY Befriender “was paired with a lady who cannot speak but she chatted away to her constantly doing a word search”.

Following DBS checks, the students are now able to visit the residents in their free time and take part in the home’s activities to build up their YOPEY record of volunteering achievement that can be added to their job and university applications. Versions of these reports can also be shown by the home, the school and the college to their inspection bodies. YOPEY Befriender schemes have contributed to care homes being upgraded by the Care Quality Commission although Hunters Down is already rated Good.

The young people were trained to relate to people living with dementia by Tony Gearing MBE, the founder YOPEY, which runs befriending schemes between schools and care homes throughout East Anglia.

The scheme between these young people and Hunters Down is the first in Cambridgeshire since the start of the pandemic when the charity’s then YOPEY Befrienders were stopped from visiting care homes. Throughout the pandemic the charity got young people to continue to support the elderly ‘virtually’. It helped them to write letters, compile activities such as word searches, share artworks and make videos. YOPEY continues to offer this service to thousands of care homes for which it cannot provide in-home befriending.

Tony said: “I believe our Befrienders are unique and give more benefit to elderly people living in care homes because they are young. Most other befriending schemes use the middle-aged to visit the old-aged. While you would think the two older generations would have more in common, the elderly love to hear about the young’s lives and they love to give advice to people embarking on their adult lives.”

Tony added: “There is also dementia. A lot of residents in care homes have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. We train YOPEY Befrienders to not be judgemental and to ‘live in the moment’. We have evidence from care professionals that our young volunteers relax residents and reduce their anxiety.”

Schools, get pupils to ‘write letters to Queen’ about Jubilee

Schools, get pupils to ‘write letters to Queen’ about Jubilee

YOPEY is appealing for schools in the East of England to ‘write letters to the Queen’ to mark the Platinum Jubilee in a scheme backed by the Queen’s representatives in the region.

All the letters will be shared by YOPEY with elderly people living in care homes. The best letters will then be chosen by YOPEY’s founder, Tony Gearing, who was made an MBE by the Queen.

The best letters will then be forwarded to the Queen by either Tony or the Lord-Lieutenants, who represent Her Majesty in each of the counties that make up the East of England – Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

“Elderly people living in care homes are big fans of the Queen,” said Tony. “They will love to be included in these conversations between schoolchildren and the monarch.”

Tony said the young could write about how they celebrated the Platinum Jubilee or they could write about their interests.

He gave these examples:

• A primary age pupil might write: ‘Dear Queen, my name is Molly. I love ponies. I know you love horses. Here is a drawing of me on my pony.’

• An older secondary school student might write: ‘Your Majesty. My name is Tom. When I leave school I want to do a job that involves travel. I’m told you are the Head of the Commonwealth and it contains 54 countries. I have been on holiday to Malta. I understand Malta is a member of the Commonwealth. I believe you have visited many, many countries – which is your favourite? I’d imagine it is ….’

The letters will not just bring smiles to the faces of the elderly, they will be good for people suffering from dementia.

“Even people living with dementia may not have forgotten older events from the Queen’s 70-year reign such as her coronation. Having the young people’s letters read to them will help them to remember.”

The Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Mrs Helen Nellis, said: “I’m delighted to hear that young people are marking Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by writing letters to let The Queen know what they did to celebrate her wonderfully long reign.

“It is so important that we learn about the Monarchy and appreciate just how much the Queen and other members of the Royal Family contribute to this country and the Commonwealth.”

Each letter should be on a single side of paper, then photographed or scanned, and the digital file emailed to hello@yopey.org. Personalised certificates will be made for each school that takes part.

YOPEY used to run Young People of the Year awards, mainly in the East of England, and now runs award-winning befriending schemes between schools and care homes from its HQ in Suffolk.

During the pandemic YOPEY has grown from working with a dozen care homes in the East of England to sending young people’s letters to 2,000 care homes across the UK.