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Bridging the age gap to celebrate town’s heritage

Residents Maureen McLeallan, Mary Armstrong and Peggy Stephenson with activities organiser Freda Snaith, second left. Picture by Highlights PR
Residents Maureen McLeallan, Mary Armstrong and Peggy Stephenson with activities organiser Freda Snaith, second left. Picture by Highlights PR

Residents at an Alnwick care home have partnered with local school children to commemorate 100 years of life in the town – and the new-found friendships have led to some amazing revelations.

Abbeyfield House, which accommodates 25 people in a purpose-built facility, successfully bid for a £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to unite young and old people by celebrating the town’s rich culture and history.

Freda Snaith, activities organiser for Abbeyfield House, arranged a number of sessions with school children from Swansfield Park Primary School, where the elderly residents were able to share their memories of past times with the youngsters.

Stories, music, dance and art were used to explore the last century of life in the town.

The children learnt songs of the period and shared them with their older friends, many of which were very familiar to the elderly who joined in the singing with enthusiasm.

The year-long project has brought many benefits to young and old alike.

Freda said: “The grant has allowed us to forge a relationship which will continue into the future with Swansfield Park Primary School.

“Being a part of the project has given the residents a huge amount of pleasure and also given them a sense of worth knowing that they still have a lot to give to other generations.

“It’s been a tremendous year of education, friendship and fun between two very different age groups.”

The project has brought a number of unexpected moments too.

Freda said: “Many surprising memories came to light during the sessions from the residents.

“One lady was able to share with us that she was a direct descendant of Florence Nightingale and we even discovered that one of our ladies had actually flown a Spitfire.

“It’s amazing what you can find out about people if you simply ask.”

The relationship between the elderly and the very young has brought about some poignant moments, including the session where a boy with a speech problem teamed up with a woman who had suffered a stroke which greatly affected her speech.

The two were able to converse for long periods of time with little embarrassment on either side.

Freda said: “Projects like this are good for our residents, the young people and the townsfolk of Alnwick.

“It’s great to celebrate our heritage and history but even better to create new friendships.”

A lasting reminder of the project is now on display in Abbeyfield House, a wall hanging created by the children and residents depicting a collection of poppies in tribute to those who lost their lives from Alnwick in the Great War.