A six-week pilot project is aiming to bridge Edinburgh’s generation gap through organising weekly meet-ups between Gylemuir Primary School Nursery pupils and residents from a local housing association for older people.
Each Friday, 10 four-to-five-year-olds spend the morning at Claycot Park, a Hanover Scotland sheltered housing development in Corstorphine, taking part in various activities including Lego building, bubble blowing, and colouring-in. Each meet-up begins with the children singing a welcome song to the retirees after which everyone is given a name badge and each child chooses their ‘older friend’ for that morning’s activities.
88-year-old Mrs Mary Aitchison is almost completely blind and has lived at Claycot Park for over nine years.
While colouring in poppies with 4-year-old Olivia, she said: “It is just lovely to spend this time with the children. Olivia reminds me very much of my granddaughter, who has just left to go to University. While I do still get out and about, having these meet-ups is one of the highlights of my week; the children are always so happy and enthusiastic – it makes me feel young again!”
The children’s parents have also voiced their support for the project. One parent, Karen Callaghan, said: “My daughter is already looking forward to next week’s activity. I am so pleased she is enjoying her time with her older friend at Claycot Park.”
Another parent, Jade Finlayson, added: “It’s such a great thing for the kids and for the community as a whole.”
Hanover provides affordable, modern, and safe housing and services for older people across the country. In total, Claycot Park has 58 residents who all lead very independent lives, and with a few weeks left of the pilot project there are already plans to continue the meet-ups in 2018 and expand them in size to involve more children and residents.
Claycot Park sheltered housing manager, Sarah Montgomery, said: “The huge smiles on the resident’s faces after the meet-ups are encouragement enough to continue the project. It is just a lovely thing for everyone involved!”
Gylemuir Primary School Nursery teacher Mrs Johnstone added: “The children thoroughly enjoy coming to Claycot Park every Friday and spending time with their older friends. It is rather special that the children keep choosing the same older friend that they chose the previous week, and it has really helped some of the more quiet children come out of their shells.
“At the first meet-up Jayden was very shy and didn’t say much to his older friend, Bill. But now, after only three weeks, they are the best of friends, cracking jokes and talking about their lives. These activity mornings have been so successful that we have a waiting list of pupils who want to come along!”
Local Reverend Moira McDonald, Minister of Corstorphine Old Parish, helped to arrange the meet-ups and recommended Claycot Park – where a number of the residents who attend the Reverend’s weekly service live – after being approached by Gylemuir Primary’s deputy head teacher Mrs Sophie Lowe. Rev.
Moira McDonald said: “This initiative has been a resounding success and has brought the whole community together. There really is nothing like a child’s enthusiasm and friendliness to put a smile on everyone’s face.”