Engaging young and old

Helen Simmons, Chief Executive, Nightingale Hammerson

Nightingale Hammerson is one of the oldest established Jewish social care organisations in the UK and innovating residential care is central to our culture and key to maintaining our high standards of care. In 2017 we welcomed Apples and Honey Nightingale, the first nursery co-located in a care home that provides a carefully designed intergenerational programme of daily meaningful activities for both residents and children.

Alongside our weekly intergenerational baby and toddler group, these regular engagements have allowed our 2 organisations to put intergenerational interaction firmly on the national agenda.

 Our programme is carefully planned to be developmentally, cognitively and emotionally appropriate for both age groups. The therapies department, activities team, care staff and nursery meet regularly to evaluate the activities and ensure that they are both challenging and accessible. This close cooperation has created a cohesive partnership that is working for the benefit of all involved. Retired teachers and book lovers are the children’s ‘reading buddies’, teddies are the common link for those with dementia, reflexes are stimulated during balloon and bubble games and the children’s knowledge of music from decades gone by is developed during our joint exercise classes. This weekly timetable is enriched with outings, shared meals, baking, gardening, animal petting sessions and much more.

 The benefits for all involved are unquestionable. The children learn so much from the experiences and knowledge shared by their elderly friends whilst the residents have a renewed sense of purpose and self-worth and all thrive on the new relationships.

 Having an on-site nursery brings benefits not only for residents and children, however. Staff and volunteers find it extremely rewarding, and it supports our wider mission to provide a stimulating, nurturing environment where every person is treated as an individual and where residents and their relatives, staff and volunteers show mutual warmth, respect and empathy in their interactions. In recognition of the value we put on our team, 20% of nursery places are reserved for children of nurses and care staff, to whom we owe such a large part of our success, to allow them to continue developing their careers with us.  

Our pioneering philosophy has allowed us to help shape a best practice model for those looking to follow in our footsteps. As well as hosting intergenerational workshops for visiting delegation groups, we also co-hosted a one-day conference entitled “Innovation in Care: Stories of Intergenerational Action” last February with Goldsmiths, University of London, for practitioners, researchers and innovators invested in progressing intergenerational interaction. Events such as these allow us not only to help set a pathway for others, but to continue to innovate our own offering, which is why we have begun a research programme documenting our success and we hope to continue to develop these initiatives to allow us to share evidence of the benefits of our intergenerational philosophy.  

Our intergenerational innovation was one of the contributing factors to our biggest achievement over the past year, the award of a highly coveted ‘Outstanding’ rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Feedback from relatives highlighted the initiative as something to be “highly commended”. We were very gratified by the conclusions of inspectors that “it was evident by the amount of laughter, smiles and hand-holding going on between the children from the nursery and the people living in the home that they knew each other well and really enjoyed one another’s company”. This was confirmation of our success in having created a caring home environment where generations of older people have chosen to live and are supported to live their lives to their full potential.


Edel Harris





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