School children share kindness with festive cards for elderly care home residents

The Lancashire Post and Blackpool Gazette's Cards for Kindness campaign encourages people to send one extra Christmas card to an isolated care home resident, in a bid to tackle loneliness this winter.

Wednesday, 9th December 2020, 12:30 pm

And the Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System initiative has relaunched for its third year in time for Christmas - after what has been a tough year for many care home residents, with visiting restrictions during the pandemic.

With more than 100 care homes taking part across the borough, participants then choose one of the involved homes and send it off with a stamp in the hope of making the national lockdown a little more bearable.

And care home managers across the borough are supporting the scheme, ensuring that their residents or daycare visitors are able to hold a personalised card to make them feel valued this winter.

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Joyce Elstone (87) with the Christmas Card she received

Milbanke Day Centre on Station Road, Kirkham, was onboard with the new scheme and paired up with local primary school - Kirkham and Wesham county primary school, to spread festive cheer and open up a dialogue between the elderly and the young.

School children aged nine spent their time crafting cards with personal messages to send to the day service users at Milbanke, with many of the elderly people sending a card back to them in a bid to combat feelings of loneliness in the run-up to Christmas.

Arleen Thompson, 54, manager of the day centre said: "The cards for kindness is a brilliant scheme we wanted to get involved with because most of our service users have got dementia or are lonely.

"The cards from the school children have cheered them up. Pre-Covid we had the local playschool over because the service users loved being able to spend time with the children.

Milbanke Day Centre users with Christmas cards they received from young school pupils

"I had the idea and spoke to the headmistress of the school and she was on board straight away. The year five children still have two years left so we plan to carry this on for the next two years and are even hoping to send letters at Easter, they had two years at school so they can carry it on.

"Making Christmas cards to send back to the children has kept many of them busy which is important because so many of them live on their own and have no family. For them to receive a card it has made them ecstatic."

Cards from the school children wished care home day users a merry Christmas directly, reminding them they are being thought of over the festive period.

And the visitors at Milbanke were 'thrilled' to receive cards from the school children, which will be kept as a heartwarming reminder that they are being thought of this Christmas.

George Marshall, 70, holding the Christmas card he received.

Headmistress Rhiannon Jones, from Kirkham and Wesham county primary school said: "We take our pupils to sing carols for them every year and because they are missing that chance, was on board with the cards for kindness scheme.

"It is keeping those links going with the elderly people and making the children aware of loneliness. The year five class are very creative and have made some beautiful cards and enjoy the opportunity to chat and start a dialogue with the elderly.

"When we spoke to the children they had much more in common with the people at the care home than they realised as they bonded over conversations about their childhood and Christmas time."

The Cards for Kindness project was first set up by Lancashire County Council in summer 2018 as a response to increasing feelings of loneliness in care homes, and Christmas is being seen as the ideal time of year for more people to reach out.

Left to right - Ruslans Stefanovics, Tia Clements, Jacob Tidswell and Elsie Sweatman from Kirkham County Primary School with the cards they received from the care home

And even for daycare visitors who aren't permanent residents - this Christmas is considered to be 'the loneliest yet' by charity AgeUK, who announced that there are at least 1.4m chronically lonely older people in England, but an expected 2m this year because of the pandemic.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: "This seems set to be a festive period like we have never experienced before, and not one any of us would want to navigate on our own.

"At the best of times, Christmas can be bitter-sweet for many older people, but this year they are going to need our support even more than usual. At Age UK we were thrilled to hear older people paying tribute to all the friends, neighbours - and strangers - who had reached out to offer them help during the first wave, but the fact is we know that some older people missed out, and are likely to do so again."

Similar to our cards for kindness campaign, AgeUK is also encouraging people to keep in touch with the elderly under the current circumstances, by a video call or by sending homemade Christmas cards to remind them they are being thought of during these difficult times.

And the recent ONS figures show that 2.2 million of over 60s say that they haven’t had anyone to talk to about their worries and sadly 2.2 million said they felt like they are a burden on others.

• You can find participating care homes online here.

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