Happy days: innovative ways to promote IGL during COVID-19 in Ireland

February 1, 2021 |  Eilish Balfe

Europe is amid the third wave of the COVID pandemic. Luckily, there are many very committed early years and care professionals working tirelessly to connect generations in creative and imaginative ways during this the third Lockdown. Read Eilish Balfe’s blog about how Happy Days Early Years’ Service in Ireland has been maintaining intergenerational relationships in the village community of Ratoath, in Ireland over the past year.

Happy Days Early Years Service in Ratoath, Co. Meath, Ireland has been able to continue our Intergenerational experience with our local nursing home, Ratoath Manor. This has been a tremendous boost to all involved. Now, more than ever, we have been determined to continue this essential relationship that we had built up over four years. We knew we had to work hard to keep our two age groups connected in these strange and uncertain times.

Last March, when the nursing home took the lead to close their doors to visitors to stop the spread of COVID, our service had to quickly come up with new innovative ways to keep the lines of communication open between the preschool and the nursing home.

Our usual visits had always been a Monday morning so we wanted to keep this day as our special day when we would send letters, pictures the children had painted or videos of the children singing or saying hello. We also had a game where the children would send down questions to the nursery home residents, e.g. What’s your favourite colour? Do you like chocolate? And we would get a video in return of the residents answering our questions.

When Alice, a resident of the nursing home, turned 90 years old during the first lockdown, the children both past and present and the local community got involved with me to record Alice a lovely video to remember her day.

Our children send little packages of nail polish and lipstick to ‘our residents’ as they always admired their lovely nails and lipstick on our visits, when visits were still possible. We receive chocolate back from our residents, which is always a huge hit with our children.

Our very first visit all those years ago in 2017 had been the children performing a Christmas show and this had become a tradition for the children. But we had to put a new COVID slant on it in December, so we ZOOMED into the nursing home to perform our Christmas show. We shared so much festive joy, laughter and tears as we saw our friends once again. There was a particularly lovely moment when Jack, our little 4 year-old saw John, his favourite resident for the first time since March.  It was a very special moment.

We gifted our friends playdough and kinetic sand as a reminder of our times together so we could feel connected in some way.

We also put rope lights on our nursing home railings in conjunction with a local Community Together Group, to show a sense of hope and solidarity that better days are coming.

With the vaccine now being rolled out, we are so looking forward to the times when we can make those special connections in person once again.

Postscript: Our letters and packages are quarantined for 2 weeks to keep everyone safe.

Author: Eilish Balfe, Manager Happy Days Early Years Service

Read more about Happy Days Early Years Service in an article about kindness and well-being, which was published in The Irish Times, 8th December 2020.