Miniature Heroes: Kids contributing to older adult needs during COVID-19

Dr Charlotte Squires is BGS Digital Media Editor and a medical registrar in the Scottish borders. While she loves all things geriatric medicine related, she is particularly interested in cognitive disorders, anticipatory planning, and simulation training. She tweets at @charsquires.

A few weeks ago, I was heartened to see a story on Twitter about a young person trying to do her bit for older adults during the pandemic. I tracked her and some other fantastic young people down to hear more about the amazing things they are doing, and what they have learned along the way.

Martha Gordon, age 11, from Nottingham

Martha was familiar with Wrens Hall, a local nursing home, as she had attended their 30th anniversary celebrations last year. When she heard that the home, like many others, had been affected by COVID-19 and had lost several residents, she decided to fundraise on their behalf. A keen triathlete, Martha decided to run an entire marathon in 5k increments, and despite aiming to raise £100, the end sum was an impressive £1355! She said, “I wanted to buy the residents at Wren Hall something nice for the garden, or for the living room, to cheer them up and make them happy”. I’m sure that the residents and staff will be incredibly appreciative of her effort.

Well done, Martha, for working to help out a care home at a time that has been so difficult, and many thanks to your father, Professor Adam Gordon, Professor of the Care of Older People at the University of Nottingham, and now BGS President Elect, for putting us in touch.

Lily Dickens, age 11, from Devon

Lily Dickens from Devon, got a sewing machine for Christmas and has been putting it to excellent use by making facemasks for older members of her family, and also older people in her community. She says ”I was helping my mum do shopping for our neighbour who can’t go out and I realised I could make a mask for her and for my grandma and granddad and for friends. I could also raise some money for my school. It made me happy helping more vulnerable people.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m anticipating she’ll be on the Sewing Bee in no time at all, and in the meantime her skills are helping keep people safe, as well as stylish. Well done, Lily! Thank you to your mum Claire Haskins, a palliative care consultant, for getting in touch and supporting this brilliant project.

Many of us working with older people are involved in contributing towards large scale research, education or policy formation. Yet, we also find pride and professional satisfaction in our clinical contact with individual people requiring our expertise.  The following youngsters have been working hard to ensure their older family members are supported despite the challenges of social isolation and lockdown, something I found inspiring, and uplifting.

Narnia and Tamara Kanesamuttunathan, age 12 and 6, from London

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Narnia and Tamara have been helping their grandmother, who is receiving cancer treatment and has moved in with them during lockdown. The sisters noticed that their grandmother didn’t always enjoy her nutritional supplements, and also found eating at the dinner table tricky. As a result, they have ensured that she has a steady stream of ice cream cones on offer, a treat that she really enjoys, and also manages to eat independently. Narnia  said ”I think my sister and I have learnt that you don't necessarily need to make big changes to make a difference, and the whole family have learnt that we all love ice cream in a cone!"

Ice cream is a great way to provide calories to older people with smaller appetites and so this is both kind, and helpful. Well done, Narnia and Tamara! Many thanks to your mum Krish Vendavenem, who works as an old age psychiatrist and GP.

Skye Cartin, age 11, from Erskine

Skye has also been instrumental in ensuring her older family members have much-needed, safe, social contact during recent months. She began visiting her great grandmother, who lives in a nearby village, on a daily basis, after realising that she might sorely miss her usual social activities. Skye says “I wanted to make sure she feels loved and has purpose. She is forgetting things; she needs help to keep remembering. She doesn't always tell adults when she is struggling because she's too proud - but she'll tell me". Skye also explained that she looks forward to spending time with her great grandmother who has taught her "that older people are interesting, they've done so much in their lives, they can teach us". She wisely added that she would encourage anyone with an older relative to make sure they keep in touch as time is precious.

Well done, Skye, for being so considerate, and many thanks to your mum Kirsty Cartin, who works as the manager of Rashielee Care Home, for sharing her story.

Congratulations and well done not only to our featured young people, but to all others who have helped out older adults in their families and communities during the last few months. Perhaps we might see you in a few years as BGS members, but in the meantime, we remain impressed, and inspired by your actions.

Feel free to tweet me at @CharSquires, about any similar achievements so that we can share these stories of positivity with the BGS community.


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