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Is This The Future Of Care For Young And Old?

04/09/2017 17:32
BSIP via Getty Images

With childcare and eldercare in crisis, is there any hope out there for families needing care?

Well, Monday 4 September sees the landmark opening of the UK's first integrated care-home nursery in south west London.

On the site of a large care home, Nightingale House, in Clapham, a new nursery will open its doors to its first children and families.

Apples & Honey nursery will offer joint activities with care home residents as a key part of its early years curriculum.

There will be multiple benefits - for older people and young children, for their families, for the staff of the care home and nursery, and for both providers too in sharing the site and sharing costs. All those involved talk about the joy and happiness that the interaction brings to so many lives.

So could this be a new model of care for young and old alike? And why is it important?

In Britain our society and many of our activities are age segregated. This age apartheid means that different generations simply don't meet and mix, particularly the oldest and youngest. Missing out on social contact has multiple impacts for individuals and for our wider society - from loneliness and poor health to suspicion and stereotyping between generations.

If we can strengthen links between the youngest and oldest - and the generations inbetween - then we will strengthen our communities and our country.

Increasingly we are seeing parent and toddler groups visiting care homes on a regular weekly basis. These groups build links between old and young in shared activities like singing and music but they also engage mothers who can feel isolated in the early years of their child's life.

Elsewhere nurseries are reaching out to care homes in their local area. Some are literally neighbours, like the new Busy Bees nursery which opened last month next door to an Anchor care home in Chichester. Joint activities have already started.

While there are very few if any nurseries that have the space to accommodate a care home, many older people's housing and care schemes do have spare space (buildings, rooms and grounds) that could host a nursery. Already some housing and care providers are undertaking feasibility studies to see if they could follow in the footsteps of Apples & Honey Nightingale.

They also recognise the business benefits for childcare and eldercare providers. Costs can be shared for example for catering, grounds and buildings maintenance and back office functions. And it gives providers a USP to market their services to families looking for care for young or old.

Interestingly research from other countries shows that co-location also helps the recruitment and retention of staff. With many care providers facing staffing difficulties, this could be a key attraction. Up to 20% of the new nursery's places are being earmarked at subsidised rates for staff working at the care home.

Evaluation is key to show what is possible. We shall be watching Apples & Honey Nightingale closely to see the full impact of their integrated activities for all involved.

The co-location of care for young and old makes sense in so many ways. As nurseries and care homes struggle to avoid closure, there are rays of hope on the horizon. Here is a model of care that works for all generations.

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