Helena Romanes students befriend dementia residents at Dunmow care home

Sixth formers from Helena Romanes School in Dunmow volunteering as befrienders for the YOPEY charity. Picture: YOPEY

Sixth formers from Helena Romanes School in Dunmow volunteering as befrienders for the YOPEY charity. Picture: YOPEY

Archant

Teenagers from a Great Dunmow secondary school have been trained to make friends with elderly people living with dementia.

Sixth formers from Helena Romanes School in Dunmow volunteering as befrienders for the YOPEY charity. Picture: YOPEY Sixth formers from Helena Romanes School in Dunmow volunteering as befrienders for the YOPEY charity. Picture: YOPEY

The sixth-formers from Helena Romanes School were recruited by the charity YOPEY (Young People of the Year), and trained at the Redbond Lodge care home in the town.

Once they have passed criminal records checks, the aim is that the 11 young people will once a week walk from their school in Parsonage Downs to the care home in Cheques Lane and visit the home’s 83 residents – some of whom do not get any visitors.

At the end of this first visit the 16-17-year-olds were given YOPEY Befriender badges by the charity’s founder, Tony Gearing, who was made an MBE by the Queen this summer “for services to young people in the UK”.

Tony has previously run Young People of the Year campaigns in Essex.

He said: “It can be quite daunting at first to make conversation with someone with dementia.

“But following the training and with further support from the care home staff, I am sure the young people will be able to fill a gap in the hearts of lonely residents.”

It is hoped that the scheme will not only benefit the care home residents by tackling loneliness and isolation, but will also help the youngsters develop listening skills and volunteering experience.

The initiative also brings different generations together.

Donna Wright, head of sixth form at Helena Romanes, added: “The feedback has been excellent.

“The students really enjoyed their first visit and all are continuing.”

Redbond Lodge is owned by Benfleet-based Runwood Group, which has more 70 homes in England and Northern Ireland.

Chief executive Gordon Sanders said: “We think the YOPEY Befriender scheme is a fantastic initiative.

“It is bringing a large number of young people into our homes and putting a smile on the faces of our residents.”

Find out more about YOPEY at its website: www.youngpeopleoftheyear.org

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