BIG-hearted pupils at a Black Isle secondary helped put smiles on the faces of local elderly folk last week by preparing and hosting a lunch for them at their school.
The 11 students at Fortrose Academy prepared the meal as part of an innovative project designed to help break down barriers between generations by giving them realistic insights into the effects of dementia and ageing.
The pilot scheme – organised with local charity Black Isle Cares (BIC) – saw pupils offer their elderly guests a choice of home-made soups, freshly prepared rolls, cheese and crackers, scones with jam and whipped cream, sponge cupcakes and shortbread.
Ruth Mantle, NHS Highland’s Alzheimer Scotland dementia nurse consultant, who assisted in the pilot, said: “It was a wonderful lunch. The students went out of their way to make sure everyone had a really great time. One guest told me that she normally had lunch by herself but that today it had been like having a lunch ‘in the sunshine’.”
Alastair Ferns, Fortrose Academy’s depute rector, said: “Our pupils and staff have thoroughly enjoyed their involvement in this project and we are hoping very much to develop our partnership with Black Isle Cares in the future. Pupils working with outside agencies like this help develop a host of skills which will equip them for the future.”
Brian Devlin, chairman of BIC said: “It was a real pleasure to work with Fortrose Academy pupils on this project. The whole idea was to encourage young people to think about the challenges some older people have, but also the wisdom and experience they have to offer.”
The group Black Isle Cares, a registered charity, emerged from a number of local volunteers who share a concern about gaps in provision for older people on the peninsula.
The closure of Marine House care home in Rosemarkie, now being developed as luxury flats, and planning delays over proposals for another facility serving the Black Isle prompted the establishment of the group.
The group aims to support adults with health and social needs and their carers, to identify gaps in provision and to find ways to fill these. BIC works with NHS Highland and Highland Home Carers and provides a meals on wheels service as well as promoting social inclusion across its area.
The project with Fortrose Academy looked at creating an opportunity for different ages to experience each other’s company and take pleasure in learning from each other.
In its first week, it looked at stereotypes of old and young people. BIC treasurer Peter Furniss shared his experiences of growing up after the war.
In another session, Dr Leah Macadan from Stirling University helped students experience what it is like to “feel old” through a range of exercises including wearing lenses that mimicked macular degeneration or cataracts, and being blindfolded and undergoing various scent tests.
On the third week, the students went out on a meals on wheels round with BIC volunteers. The customers were very pleased with the young students visiting them and the event was hailed as a real success.
A spokesman for BIC said the intergenerational work would continue: “It’s joyful and vital work. We had a lot of fun.”