Abbeyfield residents share joy of reading

A new reading scheme launched by Abbeyfield Society is helping bring residents together.

The Reading Friends initiative, which is driven by The Reading Agency and funded by the Big Lottery, has been piloted at Abbeyfield’s Westall House in Horsted Keynes, Sussex.

Operations Manager at Westall House, Jemma Thompson, said: “Already we’ve seen high engagement levels from our residents regarding the Reading Friends project. Reading is such a universal pleasure and a pastime for many of those living with us at Westall House.

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“Now we are expanding the way in which reading can be enjoyed throughout the house, in a more interactive fashion and very much looking forward to having our experiences shape this project for other older people in the UK.”

Launching on June 5, staff and volunteers at the home performed an Oliver Twist-themed flash mob for residents during lunch-time. Participants dressed up as characters from the Dickens novel as ‘Food, glorious food,’ rang out through the dining room.

Moving forward, further literary themed events have, or are, taking place including a recent Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (pictured), poetry in the garden sessions and an outdoor carnival.

Westall House is also putting strong emphasis on the intergenerational aspects of the Reading Friends project. Activities within a care setting that include input from children typically have strong benefits for both parties, and Reading Friends hopes to further the body of research on the subject through literature.

The experiences of the project will be used to roll-out the scheme across Abbeyfield’s services.

Head of Dementia Innovation for The Abbeyfield Society, April Dobson, said: “There is a great deal of evidence that details how positive the benefits of a shared reading programme can be for older people.

“Reading for pleasure empowers; it keeps us learning and mentally active, it can reduce or slow cognitive decline, it takes us off into another world and reduces stress.”

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