Dunstable has recreated its own version of smash-hit TV show Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds, after teaming children with elderly Independent Living residents to see what they can learn from each other.

Lancot Challenger Academy and Central Bedfordshire Council’s Priory View have been working together in a programme which has seen 3-5-year-olds visiting residents once a week for a six-week period, to take part in one-on-one activities such as reading, drawing, colouring and cookie decorating.

The initiative was borne out of an inspiring Channel 4 documentary series, which explored whether inter-generational activities can improve the health and happiness of older people, alleviating feelings of loneliness, anxiety and a loss of confidence.

The results have been similarly positive in Dunstable with examples that the programme boosted the social, emotional and academic development of the children, while improving the wellbeing of Priory View residents and instilling newfound confidence in all involved. 

Observations of the children at play showed high levels of engagement and involvement, as they enjoyed the one-on-one communication – revelling in the stories from the residents’ past and asking endless questions about their lives. 

The project also brought benefits in terms of a sense of belonging, being valued and self-esteem, and Molly said:

“I love going to play there. They talk to you about anything you want to talk about.”

Riley added: “It makes me laugh when Don puts Play-Doh on his glasses. And he shared his breakfast with me, but I ate it all!”

Malachi said: “Peter helps me with puzzles – the really tricky ones.”

“It has been such a privilege to be welcomed by the residents and staff at Priory View,” said Lancot teacher, Sam McCook, adding: “The children have gained so much by engaging in quality playtime with the residents. They’ve formed positive, loving relationships and have grown in confidence as a result of this.

“It’s wonderful to see such an impact for all involved and it’s something we plan to share across the wider school so that more children and adults can benefit.”

BBC Three Counties Radio has featured the initiative and you can listen again (fast forward to 2 hours 48 minutes 40 seconds).