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

First YOPEY Befriender scheme in Suffolk since pandemic

First YOPEY Befriender scheme in Suffolk since pandemic

Sixth-formers from three Ipswich schools have begun befriending elderly people living with dementia at a care home in the town.

The Suffolk charity running the scheme believes it is the first “intergenerational” befriending scheme between old and young in the county since the pandemic.

The 14 16-18 year-olds from one state school and two independent schools have met residents at Prince of Wales House, Prince of Wales Drive, for the first of what is planned to be many visits over the coming months.

The young people come from St Alban’s Catholic High School in Digby Road, Ipswich School in Henley Road and St Joseph’s College in Belstead Road and aim to visit weekly.

Prince of Wales House is owned by The Partnership In Care (TPIC), whose Clinical Director Rachel Ditton said: ““We are delighted to be working on this intergenerational project with YOPEY which brings many benefits for all involved. We are excited to be forming new experiences with the aim of these continuing well into the future.

“There is such a wealth of skills amongst those living in our homes and the volunteers from the YOPEY scheme that can be shared, resulting in symbiosis and subsequently a positive effect on wellbeing.”

TPIC owns six care homes in Suffolk.

The Head of Sixth Form at St Alban’s, Laura Lawrence, said: “I am delighted for our students to be taking part in this scheme. It gives them the opportunity to not only support their local community and build a bond with the older generation, but also the chance to develop themselves. The students taking part have already shown enhanced qualities of resilience, empathy and patience. A number of them have ambitions to pursue careers in the caring professions.”

Laura added that the YOPEY Befriender scheme is “utterly compatible with our Catholic ethos. The charity is really well organised to facilitate this important work. I would highly recommend YOPEY Befriender to any school looking to offer such enrichment to its students.”

The Headmaster of Ipswich School, Nicholas Weaver, said: “We are delighted that some of our sixth-formers are now YOPEY Befrienders. Care is a core value of Ipswich School and we encourage all our students to value their role in our local community. It is great to see our students putting this into practice and gaining so much from the experience. Many thanks to YOPEY who provided them with excellent training.”

Jonathan Orbell, the teacher who accompanies the Ipswich School students on regular visits, added: “For pupils to opt to socialise and play games with the residents speaks volumes about the group’s selfless nature and giving spirit. I have been fortunate to witness first hand the difference their interactions are making to the lives of the residents at Prince of Wales House.”

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 and the schools to their inspection bodies. YOPEY Befriender schemes have contributed to care homes being upgraded by the Care Quality Commission although Prince of Wales House is already rated Outstanding.

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

The scheme between these schools and Prince of Wales House is the first in Suffolk 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 got 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 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.”

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.