A firm bond between toddlers and older people has been established in Old Colwyn.
The generations are joining forces for regular sessions called ‘Wee Ones Meeting Wise Ones’ at Y Fron community centre which is part of the independent living accommodation run by housing association Cartrefi Conwy.
The heart-warming scheme sees mums taking their babies and young children along to meet up with older people for an hour of fun, games, songs and the odd cup cake or two.
The initiative, a partnership between Conwy County Borough Council Community Wellbeing Team, National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and Cartrefi Conwy, provides the monthly get togethers which are proving to be a massive hit.
It was inspired by a similar project run by the NCT in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland.
Clara Jones, Conwy Community Wellbeing Officer said: “I was contacted by Cathy Whitfield, a volunteer from NCT wanting to know if we had any intergenerational projects for the young mothers she was in touch with.
“Working with Nerys Veldhuizen, Older Person’s Engagement Coordinator with Cartrefi Conwy we were able to use Y Fron Community Centre and invite not only Cartrefi Conwy tenants but also residents of local nursing and residential homes, in fact any members of the local community.
“There are so many benefits for all generations coming together. Interacting with children is a real tonic that not all older people have a chance to experience.
“Meeting young mums helps also to rekindle memories and offer a chance to share stories and tips from their own parenting experience.
“Most of all though sessions like this help prevent a sense of isolation which can be experienced not only by some of the older people but also young mums.
“We have held four events so far and they are proving so successful we are looking to keep it going and start up new schemes in other areas.
“We are also in the early stages of planning ‘Wee Ones and Wise Ones Go For a Picnic’ summer event on the beach which everyone will be welcome to attend.
Nerys Veldhuizen said: “Cartrefi Conwy provides the venue for free and we encourage those tenants that want to come along to do so.
“It’s an intergenerational scheme that is clearly helping to improve the well-being of older tenants as well as helping the early development of children.
“I’m so pleased with the way it has gone so far. We even have tenants who don’t normally attend events coming along which is fantastic. It really is lovely seeing mums, babies and toddlers having a great time with the older generation.
Mum-of-two Cathy Whitfield, of the National Childbirth Trust runs the event and leads the singing when it comes to the nursery rhymes.
She said: “We have had such amazing support from Cartrefi Conwy and Conwy County Borough Council. It’s really helping bring local people together.
My own daughter, Caianna, who is 10 months old, really enjoys the whole experience and I feel she gets so much from it.”
Y Fron tenant Marion Davies, 89, attended the Wee Ones Meeting Wise Ones event with her daughter-in-law, retail manager Joy Davies and great granddaughter Erin, 16 months.
She said: “It’s a wonderful event and a great way to get together. I love seeing the children play and it makes me feel young again! Its lovely being around children and hearing them laugh and play.
“And I enjoy the singing and coffee and cakes too. It’s something I look forward to especially as Joy comes along and brings Erin too.”
Fellow residents Steve and Elaine Davies really enjoy the event and love seeing the children play.
Steve, 53, a former HGV driver who is now a permanent wheelchair user due to a muscle wasting condition, described the ‘Wee Ones Meeting Wise Ones’ scheme as simply awesome.
He said: “It’s just lovely seeing the children together and enjoying the company of older tenants. The interaction is priceless.
“It’s also great mums have a chance to get together too along with the children. It’s a safe and friendly environment and really brightens our day.”
Elaine Davies added: “It’s just amazing and something I never thought would happen. It’s inspired to be honest and just such a simple but great idea.”
Young mum Hannah Jones, of Old Colwyn, took her 10-month old daughter Mollie along for the Y Fron Community Centre session.
She said: “I’m quite surprised to see how much the older people gain from the sessions. Mollie’s great grandparents, my grandparents, live quite a way away from here and are living with dementia.
“I’d love to think there was a similar scheme for them. I think it’s so important to give older people an opportunity and I’m sure Mollie is learning important social skills as a result of these sessions.
“I want her to have new social experiences and she’s definitely getting a great deal out of these sessions.”
Registered child minder Lizzy Day, from Rhos- on-Sea, took along her own daughter Imogen, nine, as well as three children she cares for.
She said: “Some older people don’t have grandchildren and some children don’t have the opportunity to spend time with their own grandparents. These sessions are amazing and I can see everyone benefitting.
“It’s a brilliant and inspired idea and it’s clear to see how everyone gains from it. There is no pressure and children interact with older people in their own time and on their own terms. It’s fantastic.”