A lively tea dance was the crowd-pleasing finale of a new college course designed to bridge the generation gap between teenage students and residents.
The fun event included a laugh-a-minute Laurel and Hardy sketch and The Andrews Sisters tribute performance on a bill of 1940s style entertainment.
The show in which students danced, sang and recited poems, marked the culmination of a series of vocational study sessions by Coleg Cambria health and social care students at Pendine Park’s Hillbury and Gwern Alyn care homes in Hillbury Road, Wrexham.
This year was the first time the course has been run, with students visiting the home for one day a week over seven months. It gave them a practical insight into working with elderly people and dementia patients, and it forged strong bonds between students and the elderly residents they came to know as friends.
The course has been such a success that there are now plans to repeat it.
Ann Farr, centre manager at the Pendine Academy training centre, said: “We have an ongoing link with Coleg Cambria and have provided individual work placements for social care students in the past. But for 2016 we decided to offer a group course, helping equip more students with the basic skills required for a career in the care sector.
“We have been delighted with the way it has gone, both the warm welcome our elderly residents gave the students, and the way the students reciprocated this with genuine respect and consideration for residents they have helped care for.”
Labour Party Welsh Assembly candidate, Lesley Griffiths, who was invited to the tea dance as a special guest, praised the innovation behind the college course.
She said: “The collaboration between Coleg Cambria and Pendine Park is an excellent idea with very real benefits for all concerned. It is refreshing to see so many young people here today and to know that a course such as this exists, where students can truly interact with people on all sides of the care spectrum. It can only be a good thing and provides a solid groundwork for ever better levels of residential care in the future.”
Claire Williams, Pendine Park’s lead course tutor thanked fellow staff who helped guide and supervise students.
She said: “We used the mornings as study sessions, looking at topics such as communication skills, health and hygiene issues, and how we build social, recreational and enrichment programmes into the daily life of residents. Then in the afternoons students would interact with residents and put the lessons learned in the mornings into practice.”
Wendy Fowler, director of health care and child care at Coleg Cambria, said: “This has been a wonderful experience which we could not possibly have provided without the assistance of Pendine Park. For students to have the opportunity to step out of the classroom like this and meet and work with elderly residents in an everyday setting is invaluable for them. We are indebted to Ann, Claire and their entire team.”
Three students, Emily Williams, Lauren Evans and Alisha Bagnall, all aged 17, have gained part time jobs with Pendine Park as a direct result of the course.
Over coming months they will help the organisation’s full time ‘enrichment programmes’ team roll out recreational and social activities for all residents in Pendine Park’s care.
Emily, who along with her fellow students is studying for a Level 2 BTech qualification in health and social care, said: “We will help with everything from larger events such as today’s tea dance and musical entertainment for residents, to board games, coffee mornings and fund-raising activities, to smaller scale social activities such as just sitting down and chatting for a while with residents.
“The skills we’ve learned through this course have helped us enormously both when it came to applying for the part time positions and also by opening our eyes to the practical sides of working in the care sector in future.”
Friends Ellen McCafferty and Kirsty Rooney, also 17, said the course has helped them better interact with dementia patients.
Kirsty said: “We’ve learned such a lot and these are skills which will stay with us as we go on to further studies, university or apprenticeships. Before I came to Pendine Park, I wasn’t very confident about walking into an environment such as this and approaching people. But the positive interaction between staff and residents here has been inspiring. It has made me realise that the best type of care happens where everyone involved is seen as part of one big family, and all the residents have a say in what they want to do each day.”
Mature student Louise Smith, 36, hopes to switch career paths from administration assistant to become a social worker on completing her studies.
The Wrexham mum of three said: “This aspect of our college course has been so beneficial. In practical terms it is beyond compare. We have built a genuine relationship with some of the residents, we’ve gained their trust and their friendship and it has been a privilege to meet them and listen to all their varying life stories.”
Olga Ord, 84, who celebrated her birthday on the same day as the tea dance, said all the residents looked forward to the days when the students came in.
She said: “They are so cheerful and smiling, and hard workers too. It’s lovely to see them and chat. I think this course has been a good idea for them and us, it’s a great opportunity for us to interact with the wider community and younger generation in particular.”
Doreen Cartwright, also in her 80s, agreed, saying: “The entertainment the girls have put on today has been great, they’ve showed such enthusiasm and made this a really enjoyable event for everyone.”