Nursing Times Award Winner

Making the connection

I joined Kissing it Better six months ago. The best bit of my job is designing projects that stretch and challenge students – and spread hope, happiness and a sense of belonging into the bargain.

On any one day, you’ll find KIB projects running right across the country: sixth formers working with reminiscence boxes in care homes; beauty students giving hand massages; choirs singing in hospitals; English students reading poetry – all to get hospital patients and elderly people talking, remembering and connecting with each other.

It sounds such an obvious idea: let young people boost their social skills and build their CVs, while also lifting the spirits of the sick and the elderly.

So why isn’t everyone doing it?

Here’s a story that neatly sums it up. This week, we came across Pat, a tireless teacher of Health and Social Care Studies in Devon.

Pat has some 'amazing girls' in her 6th form this year. The other day, she took them to the library with the task of finding books that might spark memories and conversation in elderly people. The girls collected a heap of books about the war, food from the 50s and 60s, photographs of historical Devon, and picture books of old-fashioned games, and comics (incidentally, all the things that we put in the KIB reminiscence boxes).

Now here’s the sad part: Pat had to role-play being an old lady while her students took turns to use their new-found knowledge to prompt conversation and stir memories. Pat’s tried to get her students work experience on elderly care wards and care homes, but had no luck. It’s just too hard to get through to the right person, and deal with all the protocols and red tape.

Happily, Kissing it Better has been invited by Guinness Care and Support to do our stuff in their homes around Exeter. It’s a match made in heaven. Now Pat’s girls have some lovely real-life elderly ladies and gentlemen to work with, and learn from their lifetimes of experience.

Kissing it Better brings people together. It’s what we do.

The latest NICE Mental Wellbeing of Older People in Care Homes guidelines list things that are ‘key to optimum functioning and independence’. They include: ‘life satisfaction, optimism, self-esteem, feeling in control, having a purpose in life, and a sense of belonging and support’.

Now Pat’s girls can bring these things into the lives of one lucky group of care home residents. At KIB, we’ll be happy when everyone gets the same chance to feel valued and supported, whatever their age.

Susan Walls

Susan Walls

Inspire others: Submit your idea