Resident with dementia finds joy in companionship
Gay Vaughan, a care resident living with dementia, has found joy through companionship, with her participation in a scheme to help combat loneliness rekindling her engagement with the outside world
Facilitated through Adopt a Grandparent, an independent charity seeking to build intergenerational relationships across the globe, Gay’s experience underlines the power of human connection – and she hopes it will inspire other older people to sign up to the scheme.
The former shop assistant is a resident at CHD Living’s Surbiton care home and she’s partnered with a dedicated volunteer through the initiative, which aims to forge cross-generational friendships to alleviate loneliness and isolation by matching younger volunteers with older persons who are living in care.
Having undertaken a push in recent weeks to highlight the diverse characters among the almost 100,000 volunteers who’ve signed up to the scheme, Adopt a Grandparent has seen more than 60 new care homes come forward to participate over the last month – as the organisation has focused on trying to uncover more ‘grandparents’ who are up for adoption.
Gay, who has dementia, offers an example of what care residents who participate in the scheme can expect, having experienced a heartwarming transformation thanks to her relationship with volunteer Jennifer Jackson, who has helped unlock Gay’s remarkable ability to remember her ‘grandchild’. Despite the challenges of living with dementia, the power of their connection speaks to the impact of company and companionship.
Jennifer signed up for the charity following a feeling of “great sadness” after the loss of her grandmother. The sadness, Jenny stated, stemmed both from the grief of losing a grandparent as well as feeling a disconnection from her grandmother’s generation, their experiences, and their life lessons. Jennifer’s story is similar to many of the charity’s volunteers, who have also joined the initiative following the loss of a grandparent or parent.
Speaking each week, the pair chat about their shared interests, while Jennifer tells Gay about her day-to-day activities, Gay in turn talks about her memories and life experiences. Discussing their conversations, Gay said: “There is so much to learn from older generations, their wisdom and life experiences are a real inspiration to me. It also helps draw out what’s important in our lives: our family, friends, and things we enjoy. It highlights the importance of remembering and celebrating those things that make us who we are.”
With the volunteer support presently far exceeding the number of ‘grandparents’ currently seeking companionship, the charity is currently undertaking a ‘Grandparents Wanted’ campaign to try and balance its books. Shining a light on prospective volunteers just waiting to be paired, some are well known faces, including Hollywood actor Ruby Rose, and UK media personality, Jess Impiazzi. Sitting alongside them are a doctor, finance director, electrician, nurse, lawyer and more, whose ages stretch from their teens to their fifties – with the group offering just a snapshot of the thousands of potential pairings.
With statistics showing that 1.2 million older people in England are chronically lonely and that 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with friends or family for an entire month, Adopt a Grandparent hopes its recent influx of new care homes will serve as an inspiring example for others – igniting a collective effort to bring companionship to the lives of individuals of all ages. Encouraging both in-person and virtual pairings, the charity has developed a community platform to ensure that pairs are matched in accordance with their hobbies and interests, as well as providing a safe space for virtual calls.
Shaleeza Hasham, founder of Adopt a Grandparent, gave her thoughts on Gay’s story: “I absolutely love this touching story of Gay and her volunteer ‘grandchild.’ It beautifully illustrates the incredible power of human connection and showcases the profound impact initiatives like Adopt a Grandparent can have on the lives of individuals, especially those facing unique challenges.”
Shaleeza continued: “The response to our call for volunteers to adopt ‘grandparents’ was absolutely incredible and enormously heartwarming. Now though, we are seeing a shift where we have considerably more younger volunteers than we do grandparents. We’d love to help build more intergenerational friendships – so we’re putting out a call for interested older parties to sign up too. If you know someone who you think would benefit from the scheme, please put them forward – we’re eager to do all we can to alleviate loneliness no matter where it’s found.”
These relationships, like the one between Gay and her ‘grandchild,’ prove how companionship can transcend the boundaries of age and provide friendship, emotional support, and a renewed sense of purpose to individuals of all ages.
For more information about Adopt a Grandparent or to sign up to be ‘adopted’ visit www.adoptagrandparent.org.uk/, you can watch a video about the charity’s work at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5RmXjossMY