YOPEY Befrienders from a Norfolk sixth-form put on a quiz and karaoke for residents at a housing-with-care scheme in their home town.
The young people from East Norfolk Sixth Form College in Great Yarmouth met 96-year-old Marjorie Teasdale, who recently moved in to the local care scheme.
She said: “We all had a good laugh. They are coming back to see me and I can’t wait.”
YOPEY founder Tony Gearing MBE said: “Marjorie is the same age as all the girls in this photograph put together. Yet this beautiful photograph shows just how well the two very different generations can get on.”
More than 20 young people from a sixth-form college have begun befriending elderly residents at a care home in Norfolk following training to be the first ‘YOPEY Befrienders’ since the pandemic.
The 22 16 to 19-year-olds, all girls, from East Norfolk Sixth Form College met residents at St Augustine’s Place housing with care in Addison Road for the first of what is planned to be many visits over the coming months.
The manager of St Augustine’s, Danielle Bullent, said: “Everyone was overwhelmed with emotion, seeing the YOPEY Befrienders interact with our tenants. The smiles and joy they created was a pleasure to witness. We cannot wait to have the students visiting regularly to develop their intergenerational friendships with our tenants.”
The sixth-formers’ teacher, Ellie Symonds, said: “For a lot of the students, this was their first experience in a care home, and with speaking with people who have dementia.
“Lots of stories and fun moments were shared between the students and the residents. Photos were shown of pets and stories were told of hobbies.”
Lucy Vincent, an employer engagement coordinator at the Gorleston college, said: “The opportunity for students to volunteer at St Augustine’s will be very valuable to their subjects and future applications to university and apprenticeships.
“Students will now be able to visit the residents in their free lessons and take part in St Augustine’s weekly group activities to build up a record of volunteering
The young people were trained to be ‘YOPEY Befrienders’ by Tony Gearing MBE, the founder of the Suffolk charity YOPEY, which is based near Newmarket and runs befriending schemes between sixth forms and care homes throughout East Anglia.
The scheme between East Norfolk Sixth Form College and St Augustine’s is the first visiting YOPEY Befriender scheme that YOPEY has started since before the pandemic.
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 give advice to people embarking on their adult lives.”
Tony added: “There is also the issue of dementia. A lot of residents in care homes have Alzheimer’s or other dementia diseases. We train YOPEY Befrienders not to be judgemental and to ‘live in the moment’. We have evidence from care professionals that our young volunteers relax residents and reduce their anxiety.
“YOPEY Befriender schemes have contributed to care homes being upgraded by the Care Quality Commission.”
For young people, who cannot take part in a visiting YOPEY Befriender scheme, YOPEY offers the opportunity to ‘virtually’ support the lonely elderly by writing letters, making activities and shooting videos that are shared by the charity with hundreds of care homes UK-wide.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.