It is not just a cute idea - it has great therapeutic and developmental value

Judith Ish-Horowiicz Co-founder of Apples and Honey Nightingale recently co-delivered a session for the Generations Working Together care network which focussed on play. Judith shared her experiences with Kate on how the nursery in London was established, the challenges she faced, and the lessons and stories she picked up along the way.

Kate – ‘What did you do before co-founding Apples and Honey Nightingale?’

Judith – ‘I was a secondary school music teacher before I had my own children. It was then that I discovered I was teaching the wrong age group, and that early years is the most exciting and impactful age group to teach. So, I re-trained and opened my own small nursery.’

Kate –‘How did the idea for Apples and Honey Nightingale come about?’

Judith – ‘I wanted the children at my nursery to have a rich holistic learning experience, which had to include mixing and meeting with the elderly. I contacted Nightingale House Care Home to see if we could have a partnership and we began visiting, initially once a term but, as our relationships developed, we began to visit more frequently. One day, after watching a grandfriend (our name for an older person) and a 3-year-old bonding over their pottery and wandering into the garden together, I had my light bulb moment. ‘Why did this have to end now? Why couldn’t they see each other daily and live and learn from and with each other?’ It was such an obvious thing, and I couldn’t understand why we weren’t doing it already.’

Kate –‘As a co-founder and director what does the role involve?’

Judith – ‘It was important to me that Apples and Honey Nightingale would retain the ethos of my original nursery, Apples, and Honey but also that this intergenerational setting would not be mine but would belong to the community. For logistical and bureaucratic reasons, we set it up as my second site but, as soon as we received our Ofsted registration, I applied for the setting to be a Community Interest Company, registered with Companies House, and overseen by a board of directors. As a director, I have been able to share the Apples and Honey values of inclusivity, mutual responsibility, creativity, relationships, and challenge with the staff at the new nursery. We are a Jewish faith-based setting that welcomes families of all faiths and cultures. We have developed an integrated curriculum that covers all areas of learning and is developmentally appropriate and stimulating for the children and is physically and cognitively therapeutic for the residents. My role on the board of directors is as Chair of the Curriculum and Ethos Committee and I have been developing the Intergenerational programme working with the team at both Nightingale Hammerson and Apples and Honey Nightingale.’

Kate –‘What has been the highlight of this role?’

Judith – ‘It’s hard to pick out one highlight – I just go from one peak to another! I think that seeing the impact of our intergenerational engagements on all the stakeholders is phenomenal. And the way the world has embraced the concept and value of delivering intergenerational programmes that are custom built for all situations and all involved is really exciting. I think that the intergenerational movement is bringing on societal change. It can be a panacea for so many who are suffering loneliness, depression, and isolation, giving purpose to their lives. For the young, it can teach them resilience, give them a sense of security, a sense of their own place in the chain of existence and they learn so much from the life experiences, knowledge, and skills of their grandfriends.’

Kate –‘What have been the challenges of opening the first permanent intergenerational nursery in the UK?’

Judith – ‘I think the thing that has made us unique has been our focus on developing an integrated programme that is equally meaningful and accessible for both age groups. It has been quite hard for people to understand that this is not just a ‘cute’ idea but has great therapeutic and developmental value. Children and older people have many identical needs and they have much to offer in helping to deliver the objectives of each programme. A resident has time to listen to a child. A child has much to learn from listening to a resident. They both need exercise; they all can make music together. Another challenge is joining a well-established organisation as a ‘newbie’. This has been challenging as, despite being made very welcome, we could not help but cause change and it’s not always easy to change people’s modes of working.’

Kate –‘Are there any stories from the nursery you would like to share?’

Judith – ‘I have many stories about special friendships and about learning together. One is about Eve and little Evie. They met when Apples and Honey was visiting Nightingale and when Evie came home she received a letter with a photo that said ‘This is me when I was called little Evie. It was lovely talking to you, I hope you will come and see me again’. And then it turned out that they had the same surname too! We were amazed. Evie came from America and she learned that Eve arrived in the UK through the Kindertransport rescue programme just before World War 2. Their relationship developed to the point of sharing presents and doing pottery together. In the end, Eve really became a part of the family. There was also a lovely story that developed over lockdown, 93 year old Fay, who didn’t have any children, was a founder member of the baby and toddler group. She warmed to a baby that she held on her knee. Before the lockdown they would go over to the cafe together for a snack and this was suddenly no longer allowed when Covid struck. Surprisingly the family adjusted and they held Zoom calls that really kept their spirits up. Now that the restrictions have eased, Fay has been adopted by the family and although the baby is no longer a baby, they keep in touch.

What really helps build these connections is the planning and the projects we have. We had an amazing art project that we ran with a potter. Over 6-8 weeks both generations created pottery and decorated beehives. They learned from each other, for example children did a bee show, while residents researched bees and held a Q&A on bees to share facts. Together they also made honeycombs, extracted honey and shared IT and pottery skills. At the end they exchanged gifts of apples and honey, this worked really well with our theme and with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). We have been able to do this by following COVID-19 protocols such as using partitioned rooms.’

Kate –‘How can people start their own intergenerational projects and spaces?’

Judith – ‘It’s not difficult as most people are very excited to be invited to work with you. There are many organisations that will support you with advice such as Generations Working Together, United for All Ages and myself at Apples and Honey Nightingale. You need to find a partner and a team to work with as intergenerational engagements are primarily about relationships. Lorraine George has written an excellent book that guides you through different intergenerational programmes – how to set them up, risk assessments, resources, planning, evaluating and next steps. It’s called ‘Growing Together’ and is published by Yellow Door.

Kate –‘What has been the community impact of Apples and Honey Nightingale?’

Judith – ‘It’s been amazing! Whilst we were waiting for the building in the garden to be adapted for the nursery, we started an intergenerational Baby and Toddler group in the lounge in Nightingale House and advertised it to the local community. Many of our participants said that they hadn’t realised that the building was a care home. They didn’t know it existed! Suddenly, there was a buzz in the place, intergenerational friendships were formed, grandfriends were adopted, families used to stay on after the group and have lunch in the café. The residents at the home were now integrated into the local community in a way they hadn’t been before. These relationships didn’t stop at the door to the group – local families have adopted residents at the home and continued to stay in touch even during COVID-19 when they couldn’t come into the home in person.

Nightingale has also benefitted from an increase in volunteers who have been excited by the intergenerational programme and through this, have built up a relationship with the home. I must mention the impact on the fantastic care staff at Nightingale. Because 20% of our places at the nursery are reserved at highly subsidised prices for the home’s care staff, it helps with recruitment and retention of their skilled work force, and the relationships between the carers, their children and the residents who know and enjoy them grows even stronger. And the impact has not just been felt here in South London. We have had so many enquiries and visitors from the UK and from around the world who have plans to replicate our model or to create their own intergenerational model and we love supporting and advising them all.’

Kate –‘How can people get in touch with you?’

Judith – ‘People can email me directly’.

For information about the impact of the nursery, please read the impact report.

To hear Judith’s Ted Talk on the intergenerational nursery please visit the youtube page.