How Sand Banks is Redcar’s very own Care Home for four-year-olds

Elderly residents of a Redcar care home have been given a new spring in their step through a series of visits from local toddlers and their parents in a project inspired by a popular Channel 4 TV programme.

Sand Banks Care Centre residents are receiving weekly visits from pre-school children through a joint project with Redcar-based charity Footprints in the Community.

The Bridging the Gap scheme, which sees 10 children and their parents matched with 10 older residents, was inspired by Channel 4’s Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Olds, which seeks to discover what the very old and very young can learn from one another.

The 77-bed Sand Banks, which is one of five Teesside care homes run by the Prestige Group, was chosen to take part as Footprints in the Community as several of the care centre’s residents are regulars at the charity’s Dementia Café.

Bridging the Gap was the brainchild of social worker Laura Gregory, a Footprints volunteer, who set up and manages the project as part of her master’s degree.

Ruth Fox, chief executive of Footprints in the Community, said: “Having been a fan of Channel 4’s Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Olds, Laura thought it would be brilliant if we could do something similar here, and the project has just blossomed from there.

“To see the smiles on the residents’ faces when they are talking and playing with the children is lovely. They are just glowing.

“The Sand Banks staff have told me how good it is from physical point of view for the residents to play things such balloon tennis and take part in action songs.

“The children, of course, have no inhibitions. They just love playing and interacting with the old people, and it’s clearly mutual.”

One of those taking part in the project is 98-year-old Margaret Dalgleish, who described her weekly meetings with three-year-old Pixie Joel as “a breath of fresh air”.

“It has made me feel young again,” she said. “I love telling my family all about the children and lovely afternoons we share.”

Prestige director Paul Smith said: “There’s always a lot of life in Sand Banks but when the young children visit there is joy in the room.

“The look in the people’s eyes is incredible. There’s singing, clapping and dancing – and a few tears too because it is emotional to see.

“We believe in investing in the quality of life and quality of care for our residents but Bridging the Gap really is a humbling experience for everyone. It’s bringing the generations together.”

Built on the site of the former Stead Memorial Hospital, Sand Banks Care Centre provides residential care, dementia and nursing services from its state-of-the-art facilities.