20 September 2019

Our College's pioneering work with people in the local community living with dementia could be about to get wider recognition.
We have been hosting croquet sessions for residents of Plymouth care homes for several years, after linking up Through Hoops to Hope
Now, the two brothers behind the charity have asked us to attend a major dementia conference in London to talk about how rewarding the sessions are for the visitors - and for the students, too.

James and Andrew Creasey from Colorado set up the charity after their father, Maxwell, was diagnosed with dementia. They came up with croquet as an enjoyable way they could spend time together. 
The charity provides the equipment and the training to participating schools. But, while many have signed up to it in the US, Stoke Damerel Community College is one of only a small number in the UK.  

PE Teacher Miss Le Page at the College, said: “The Creasey Brothers want us to be at the conference to help spread this work nationally - we’ve already made a start locally. Last year, a letter was sent out to all the secondary schools in Plymouth, inviting them to come along to our college and experience what it’s like and from that Tor Bridge High in Estover is now doing the sessions as well. 
“When you see what everyone gets out of it, you can see how worthwhile it is,” added Miss Le Page.

"It’s great to make community links and to connect people in this way. In fact, I have students knocking on my door, saying ‘can I do it, can I do it?’"

Just how rewarding the initiative is was shown at the college’s first croquet session of 2019-20, held on 20 September.

Residents from three homes - St Barnabas Court, Two Trees Care Home, and Manor Court - spent the morning chatting with the students, playing croquet and enjoying a cuppa and a cake. 
Many of the visitors had been to the croquet sessions before and for both them and the students, it was just like catching up with old friends

. Among the regular visitors was Doris, from St Barnabas Court, who had celebrated her 94th birthday the day before: “The children here are so lovely and caring - they give me high fives! I’m an old hand at croquet now, although it’s very difficult to play because the hoops are so small!”

Marion and Poppy from St Barnabas are regulars, too. Marion said: “Oh, I love coming here, the girls look after us so well and we have a nice little chat together.”

Social inclusion officer at St Barnabas Court, Holly McNamara, said: “When our residents arrive, the children are outside waiting for them and waving. The children are so good, they make our residents feel like celebrities.”

One of the students outside to welcome them was Evie, from Year 13, who’s been taking part in the sessions since she was in Year 7: “I was one of the first ones to do it. We’ve made so many friends - they know us and we know them - and we all look forward to the sessions. I always want to know how they’re getting on.”

The Manor Court residents, led by Joyce and Rose, started a singalong, which got everyone joining in. With them was Year 9 student, Amina: “I just think they’re wonderful. I look forward to their visits and the opportunity to have some fun with them, and to see them having fun.”

Angela Pickering, care assistant at Manor Court, said: “Our residents think it’s marvellous that they’re actually sitting with children and singing with them. When we bring them, some of the residents don’t remember where we’re going and don’t recognise the route. But as soon as they see the school, they all remember, and their eyes light up. It’s wonderful to see.”

Jo Smith, a member of the care team at Two Trees, said: “We’ve done these croquet sessions right from the start and our residents absolutely love it. They have a fun time - it has brought a few of them out of their shells. And the children are brilliant. It’s bringing the generations together beautifully.”

And the students agree. Year 8 student Holly said: “A lot of the older people don’t get the chance to meet young people like us very often which is a shame. They love to tell us their stories and we love to listen to them.” 

Year 9 student Lili said: “I’ve done these sessions three times and they are great. It makes me happy to see that they’re happy and having a lovely time.”
Ethan, Year 8, said: “I enjoy hearing their stories - it’s a really good experience for us.”

Emily, Year 10, helped with the teas and coffees on the day and also helps to train the younger students: “I think what I enjoy the most about it is seeing the joy in the residents’ faces.”

The Creasey brothers visit the college each year to train new Year 7 students, helped by Year 8 and Year 9 students who’ve already had the training.

The croquet sessions are just one of the initiatives at the college to connect with older residents and those living with dementia and learning disabilities. Students also visit local homes to chat with the residents and have singalongs. Miss Le Page said: “Students see all the stages of dementia. They see how it affects people more and more over time, and that’s very moving.”