In 2021, a total number of 37 care home & sheltered housing older residents and 106 primary school pupils aged 8 to 89+ took part in our ‘Virtual Get Togethers’ and Sowing, Growing and eating initiatives.
The ‘Virtual Get Togethers’ sessions, facilitated by LGNI, took place as part our Soil Association Food for Life Get Togethers Project. They usually involve people of all ages meeting up in person to enjoy good food and conversation but when we couldn't Cook, Grow and Eat Together face to face, due to Covid restrictions, we did it virtually! Taking part were Healthcare Ireland Nightingale Care Home and Howard Primary School in Dungannon, Sunnymead Care Home & Lisnadill Primary School, Armagh and Bradley Manor & Holy Cross Primary school in Belfast. LGNI realised the need for connection in a time of isolation was so great. Care Homes especially had been impacted with no visitors being admitted.
We devised 3 ‘Virtual Get Togethers’ linking up primary school pupils with their local care home residents using technology, involving a total of 81 young people and 31 older people. Through iPads, large TV screens in communal room, school whiteboards and using zoom and Microsoft teams, groups of pupils and residents could see, hear and converse with each other for an hour each week, enjoying activities that created excitement and stimulation.
100% of participants reported that they had enjoyed meeting people and now felt more connected to others.
The 3 sessions involved:
Getting to know you questions, ‘Show & Tell’ - bringing along most treasured object to show to others and talk about.
Making and eating fruit skewers plus conversation and questions.
Decorating plant pots and planting up wildflower seeds and herbs, conversation and questions, individual and collective performances of singing and poetry. Lots of fun, excitement, smiles and waves during each session. Everyone enjoyed the excitement of seeing and talking to new people, the stimulation and buzz this provided. They have plans to meet up in real time when Covid restrictions permit.
Sunnymead Care Home and Lisnadill Primary School, Armagh linking ages 9 to 89 involved 8 residents and 26 pupils.
Pupils and residents had great fun making up planters and decorating with stickers and message labels to share their ’pots of kindness’ with others. Also enjoyed sharing talents of singing, dancing etc.
Plans are in place to keep up the links through exchanging letters, cards and drawings, reading stories together and maybe even a real visit if safe to so next term.
Teachers comments “The kids really enjoyed talking to everyone. It meant a lot to them as they got to hear about the past and how times have changed. The residents also made them laugh many times with their stories. It was a wonderful experience and I am delighted that I was asked to participate. I look forward to more intergenerational programmes in the future.” Older persons’ comment “ I feel alive again. I never thought we would get to chat to kid again because of covid”.
Healthcare Ireland, Nightingale Care Home and Howard Primary School in Dungannon involved 8 residents and 25 pupils.
The residents and pupils had also been decorating rocks with pictures and positive messages to exchange for the pebble gardens they each have.
Some feedback included: "The project was great - I loved seeing the boys and girls" (resident) "I feel special to get to know the residents”, “It is great to make new friends with people of different ages, even though we are different ages, we like the same things” (pupils).
Residents from Bradley Manor Care Home and pupils from Holy Cross Boys Primary School in Belfast…
The boys and the residents quickly found they shared a love of football and hurling. One of the boys and a resident had played the same position in their teams, many years apart and team photos and awards were brought in to show. Creating and eating the fruit skewers provided an opportunity for residents and pupils to try different types of fruit and they had great fun creating them in colour combinations of traffic lights.
The residents also enjoyed planting herb and vegetable seeds and decorated pots and the pupils sent encouraging cards and letters to the residents.
At Christmas the pupils came round to Bradley manor to sing carols outside and see their zoom friends in person, through the window!
Radius Housing, Maine Fold and Groggan Primary School, Randalstown, Co Antrim
The P6/7 pupils of Groggan Primary School had a safe festive 'virtual meet' with the residents of Maine Fold, Randalstown. The children took part in a brilliant online meeting with the residents. It was a great chance for them to 'meet' their penpal. The residents loved seeing the children and had the chance to talk to them online. The children made and sent cards to the Fold and had enjoyed (some more than others!) tasting root vegetables and eating fruit kebabs, all part of the funded programme they did together.
LGNI facilitated this intergenerational project as part of our partnership with Soil Association Food for Life Sowing, Growing, Sharing and Eating Together Intergenerational initiative. It involved linking 15 residents and 30 pupils to share the joy of food through growing and sowing, in partnership with Food for Life Get Togethers. Due to Covid restrictions the project adapted to take place remotely, after connections had begun at Christmas time with pupils sharing cards and positive messages with the residents. At the start of Spring, each setting were sent sunflower seeds to plant and nurture and had a friendly sunflower growing competition to keep the connections going, sharing photos and videos as they were unable to meet up. The residents sent cards with images of sunflowers and messages of hope to the pupils who appreciated how thoughtful they were. LGNI also sent lettuce, tomato and carrot seeds to sow and they shared photos and videos of their progress with each other. Residents and pupils became really involved in caring for their plants, watering them, and protecting them from bad weather. In isolating, anxious times, growing has been a positive focus that has helped everyone feel a part of something bigger, even though they were working apart. Everyone is eagerly looking forward to the time when it is safe to meet up and finally connect in person to see how each settings’ vegetables and sunflowers are growing, compare notes and make plans for future activities together, maybe even get to harvest their veg and eat together in a socially distanced picnic…Participants have said they find it very relaxing being outside and planting…
Some comments about the project included:
"Had great fun!"
"Found out more about growing different vegetables"
"Happy that we are helping other people”
“Wonderful to receive letters from the children and lovely to be thought about”
"I feel special to get to know the residents"
"It is great to make new friends with people of different ages".