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Tears and laughter as young and old share experiences

Over recent months, in care centres across Wales, an innovative social experiment has been taking place - and the results are astonishing.

In a new series of three emotional programmes on S4C, starting Sunday, 10 December, Hen Blant Bach shows what can happen when six children share their day care with a group of pensioners - and the potential transformational effects it can have.

Three day centres - in Garnant, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Bangor – have taken part in the experiment where hidden cameras follow elderly people and children as they eat, play and build relationships with each other over three days. In addition, two psychologists from Bangor University listen in and set activities to bring the two generations closer together.

In the first programme, a day centre in Garnant, Carmarthenshire comes under the spotlight as children aged between two and four visit the centre from Cae'r Ffair nursery in Gorslas.

Dr Nia Williams is one of the psychologists from Bangor University's School of Education, taking part in the programme. She specialises in the development of children. She says:

"The period up to the age of four is a key stage for children. What we want to know is what impact spending time with older people will have on this development."

Dr Catrin Hedd Jones, a psychologist and lecturer in dementia studies at the University's School of Healthcare Sciences says:

"Solitude can be an increasing problem as people get older and we know the older generation has so much to offer. In this way, older people have the opportunity to contribute rather than simply to receive care. By bringing children into their company, older people are encouraged to move and get out of their seats to enjoy activities with the children."

This year’s series has benefitted from support from KESS 2 Scholarship in partnership with Darlun.

As Dr Catrin Hedd Jones explains:

“This support has enabled us to conduct research into the effect of the three days on the children, adults and staff who are associated with the establishments. We have appointed a student under the scheme, who is doing a Research Masters funded by KESS 2 and working in conjunction with the television company and the University to develop an intervention while competing a Masters degree by collecting information about the children and adults before and after the week of activities.

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.

One of the elderly people who benefited from the experience was Noel Francis McNamara, or Mac, who is 85.  Before the filming started, Mac was concerned about how he would respond to the children because he'd had a very difficult time with mental illness over recent years.

"The change in him by the end of the three days was remarkable," said day centre manager, Bernadette Thomas. "Initially, Mac was almost afraid of what would happen.  But he has come alive with the children and been the Mac we know is there, but don't always see."

Through the tears and laughter, we will see that these two age groups have more in common than many would assume.

Hen Blant Bach
Sunday 10 December 8.00, S4C
Welsh and English subtitles available
Available on demand on s4c.cymru, BBC iPlayer and other platforms
A Darlun production for S4C in partnership with Sony Pictures Television

Publication date: 7 December 2017