Young people bring ‘laughter and energy’ to care home

The residents of a care home in Leighton Buzzard are benefitting from a new befriending scheme which brings the young and not-so-young together.

Pupils from Vandyke Upper School have taken part in the first ‘YOPEY Dementia Befriender’ scheme in Bedfordshire. YOPEY is short for Young People of the Year and it is the name of the charity that recruits, trains and supports secondary school students to visit a care home local to their school.

The Vandyke sixth-formers are visiting Carrington House in Vandyke Road, where they spend time with the residents, many of whom are lonely, despite living in a communal setting. About two-thirds of the residents have dementia.

The sixth-formers aim to visit weekly for at least an hour at a time as YOPEY Befrienders. They do this for a year, in contrast to other intergenerational schemes where visits are more occasional and normally involve putting on entertainment, rather than getting to know residents.

The scheme was given the Royal seal of approval; following a recent visit from Helen Nellis, the Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, who is the Queen’s representative in the County of Bedfordshire.  

Mrs Nellis said: “I am delighted to see the work of YOPEY Dementia Befriender in action. What splendid young people we have here in Bedfordshire. It is a wonderful idea to bring the younger and older generations together so that they can enjoy each other’s company. Well done to the students of Vandyke Upper School.”

Such is the success of the scheme, that around half of the 16-17-year-olds are still visiting the care home after six months and the young people appreciated their efforts being praised by the Queen’s representative. 

Callum Betley, who is the leading befriender on the Bedfordshire scheme, has visited Carrington House 22 times and given 40 hours of his time to the scheme. He said: “There was an amazing buzz in the air. The Lord-Lieutenant gave a speech which engaged with the residents – they felt a sense of pride as she complimented their home.” 

The manager of Carrington House, Alex Roberts, said: “Carrington House is very proud to be the first care home in Bedfordshire to take part in the YOPEY Dementia Befriender scheme. The young people are upbeat. They have been an asset to the home and residents and they have brought more laughter and energy into the home.

“Our residents thoroughly enjoy spending time with the YOPEY Befrienders and continue to talk about the fun they have after the young people leave. The young befrienders bring a breath of fresh air into the home and we are very grateful.”

Headteacher of Vandyke School, Tim Carroll, said: “As a school we encourage all our sixth-form students to volunteer in the local community as part of their enrichment curriculum. We were delighted when we received details of YOPEY Dementia Befriender and were keen to encourage our students to get involved, which, I am pleased to say, a good number have. All the students who have stuck with the scheme have all gained a huge amount from the experience both socially and personally.”

Tony Gearing MBE, founder of YOPEY, said: “We will be continuing the Leighton Buzzard scheme for a second year, and, subject to sourcing more funding, we are hoping to start YOPEY Dementia Befriender schemes in other parts of Bedfordshire.”

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