Boundless curiosity, play and a sense of wonder … If only we could all enjoy the giddy energy of a four-year-old (minus the temper tantrums, of course).
Now, in a small social experiment, a British TV series charmingly named “Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds” is exploring the effect of a group of young, energetic children on retirement home residents struggling with such issues as depression, immobility, isolation and loneliness.
During filming, which took place over six weeks in a retirement community run by St. Monica Trust in Bristol, England, producers brought ten four-year-olds together with 11 retirees in their late 80s to share daytime activities in the home’s newly built nursery classroom.
Here, children and residents followed a fun-packed activity schedule consisting of games (some of which saw elderly participants getting down and up from the floor), picnicking, arts and crafts. The six weeks capped off with, what else? An inter-generational sports day and theatrical production.
Just as a bouncing grandchild can light up a grandparent’s world when they’re feeling down, the four-year-olds seemed to positively impact the elderly residents in areas of cognition, mood and depression, as well as physical abilities including balance and the ability to get up and walk.
This, producers gleaned, by gathering data at the start of the program, three weeks into filming and again at the end of the program.
Remarkably, while nearly all of the residents scored as “depressed,” at the beginning of the experiment—(two severely so)—after the six weeks, not one scored as depressed.
The experience has continued to have positive ripple effects since filming wrapped. Many of the children and residents are still in touch with one another, St. Monica Trust plans to create a permanent nursery in other retirement homes within their jurisdiction and the Trust is looking into other ways to increase socialization of residents with their broader communities.
To learn more and view the series, visit www.channel4.com/programmes/old-peoples-home-for-4-year-olds/on-demand/64374-002