The YOPEY Befriender scheme at a care home in West Bridgford is one of the longest-established intergenerational befriending schemes in the UK.
Every year since 2014 a new group of about 30 sixth-formers from the nearby Rushcliffe School are trained to befriend elderly people, many of them with dementia. They go into the care home for an hour a week for a year before helping to recruit their successors.
Not all this year’s YBs could attend a celebration at the Leawood Manor care home in Hilton Crescent care home but eight did.
There were also about a dozen residents and relatives, a Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Arthur Sandford DL, representing the Queen, YOPEY founder Tony Gearing MBE, and several Leawood Manor staff including manager Zimran Alam.
Tony said: “The Leawood Manor scheme is so well established that the young people of Rushcliffe School compete to get on the scheme. 60 wanted to take part this year. So far this year 28 16-17 year-olds have visited the care home nearly 400 times, and given over 400 hours of their time, making Rushcliffe the top YOPEY Befriender school in England.”
The number of YOPEY Befriender schemes is growing all the time with other places to benefit including Mansfield, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Dorset.
One of the YBs Grace Guttridge, who was given a silver certificate for over 20 hours of visits, said: “It was the YOPEY Befriender celebration where I was able to meet with Nottinghamshire’s representative of the Queen and was presented with a certificate. There were also photographs taken and cake eaten. I also got to speak with two new (to me) members of the care home – Ray and Marjorie – in which we talked about things going on around us and interests etc. It was a lovely afternoon.”
Evie Fletcher, who was given a bronze certificate for over 20 hours of visits, said: “I went to the YOPEY party and collected an award for my hours completed. I had a chat with Lyn about jewellery and make-up and nails. Also we looked at different places on magazines and read some of the magazines together.”
Six months into the scheme 26 certificates have been earned including one gold for over 30 hours awarded to Marriam Albukai.
Head of Rushcliffe Sixth Form Ruth Frost said: “It was an absolute pleasure to attend the afternoon tea party and presentation at Leawood Manor and to celebrate the YOPEY Befriender scheme which has become an integral part of life at Rushcliffe Sixth Form.
“The scheme is an amazing initiative which benefits both the young person and those in our community living with dementia. I know the students value the experience and skills they acquire and what struck me most was the genuine nature of the friendships which have been forged and the ease with which two generations came together sharing memories, stories and conversation.”
Gordon Sanders, chief executive of the Runwood Group, which owns Leawood Manor and about 80 other care homes nationwide, said: “We think the YOPEY Befriender scheme is a fantastic initiative. It is bringing a large numberof young people into our homes and putting a smile on the faces of our residents.”