Nursing Times Award Winner

The village fete

Every year for the past 24 yesr, the village fete has taken place in our garden. We took on that responsibility when we moved into our house in 1992.

I come from London. Moving to the house next to the church in a tiny village, and taking on all the responsibilities that seemed to go with it, was a daunting experience. In those early years, despite having masses of support, getting the house and garden ready for a traditional village fete felt like a big deal. But I learned quickly that the one thing a new person in a village never does is to suggest any changes, without considerable thought. Tombolas, raffles, cake stalls, skittles and a coconut shy are what these events are all about.

When older people develop dementia they lose their short-term memory but their recollection of events from many years ago can stay sparklingly intact. A village fete is a great way to stimulate that part of their brain and provide easy and gentle entertainment at the same time.

Kissing it Better is all about encouraging the wider community to use their specific skills to energise older people in hospitals and care homes and to remind them that they are still a vital part of their locality. We often suggest that a care home with a beautiful garden offers their grounds to a village school or local church for their annual fete as a way of keeping their residents involved. The benefits are huge not just during the event but also during the setting up and clearing away period. To watch people argue over the positioning of a stall or struggle to put up a gazebo in the wind and rain can be hugely entertaining, especially if things don’t always go according to plan.

Seeing a group of young people struggle to knock down the skittles sparked the memory of an 82 year old lady who suddenly recalled the moment when , more than 70 years ago, her winning shot won her a live pig. Another remembered Rocky Herbert’s travelling Fair and the elephants who performed their ablutions in the nearby river each morning.

As the weather slowly improves, why not make a special effort to ensure your local care home, and any older people you may know who either live on their own or with someone who cares for them, are aware of the dates of any fete or coffee morning in their village or town and encourage as many as possible to come along. If they agree, offer help in any way that is appropriate. The older people must be properly looked after with care taken to ensure they can access the areas of particular interest to them including, of course, the toilet facilities. In return they will bring a wealth of memories with them that, when given the right encouragement (ideally a cup of tea and a cake), many will be keen to share with a younger generation.

Jill Fraser

Jill Fraser

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