Nursery children tackle dementia

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A new television programme investigates whether three- and four-year-olds can help elderly people with dementia.

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The Toddlers Who Took On Dementia, which airs tomorrow (Wednesday 23 May) on BBC One Wales, will follow a new experiment in which a group of nursery children spend three days at a dementia day care centre.

Experts from Bangor University observed what unfolded each day as children joined adults with dementia for a series of specially-designed tasks, from singing and cake-making to an exercise session. 

In order to test whether children could help with memory loss, the experts arranged activities to tap into the adults’ interests from their younger years.

David, a chauffeur of 25 years, discovered a shared love of cars with four-year-old Leo, who is on the autistic spectrum, and the pair enjoyed a vintage car ride together.

However, the programme makers also faced some challenges, with participant Maureen, who had rarely spoken after being diagnosed with dementia, reluctant to enter the room for filming, and Dot, who only arrived on the final day, initially refusing to join in.

Clare Jones and Arwyn Evans, producers of the new show at Darlun TV for BBC Wales, said, ‘It’s been an extraordinary programme to be part of. In just three days we all witnessed some really special and staggering moments of change and saw the wonderful and surprising impact that three- and four-year-olds could have on the adults, who became not just playmates but genuinely new friends.

‘The filming may have finished but the children continue to visit the centre and those new friendships and the relationship between the nursery and the centre continues. It’s genuinely heart-warming.’

The same producers also made the documentary Hen Blant Bach - Care Share, which aired on SC4 last year. The programme featured a group of nursery children and their visits to residents at a care home, over several consecutive days. It was also overseen by academics from Bangor University. The programme aimed to investigate the potential for bringing young children and the elderly together to share daycare on a regular basis.

  • The Toddlers Who Took On Dementia will be shown on BBC One Wales on Wednesday 23 May and will be available on BBC iPlayer. Watch some clips from the programme here
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