Carterton mum Lucy Adlam with her daughter Ruby, 5 months, and Roseneath Lifecare resident Barbara. PHOTO/SARAH MACDONALD
Laughter is the best medicine, and when it comes to loneliness, there’s no exception.
A group of mums are bringing joy to Wairarapa rest homes with their little bubs in tow, thanks to an initiative sparked by Carterton mother Lucy Adlam.
Lucy, who has previously lived in Wellington, London, and most recently Perth, worked as a project coordinator for a not-for-profit organisation in Australia.
Just before going on maternity leave to have her first daughter, Sage, she was asked to assist a team who were responsible for assessing home help for older people and those with disabilities.
“In this role, I had to call up usually older people and have a chat and ask how they are going and whether they needed help with cleaning or food or anything like that.
“I found that some people were so lonely and they just wanted to keep talking.
“I felt so sad because I knew as soon as I hung up, they were going to be alone again.”
When Sage was four months old, Lucy began taking her to visit rest homes, and before long, other mothers began to do the same, all connected through a Facebook group, designed to support women through motherhood.
“By the time I left Perth six months later, there were 300 mums doing it,” she said.
Since getting her footing in Wairarapa, she has followed the same model as before, meeting mothers through social networking, and clocking up five rest home visits throughout South Wairarapa, Carterton, and Masterton.
“You learn which residents are getting visitors, and which are not.
“Some people always have someone coming around to visit, and others would just be sitting in the same chair with no one.
“You walk in and they’re just expressionless, staring at a wall.
“But when you come in with a baby it’s just like so emotional.
“Their face just lights up.”
She said the transformation was particularly moving in people with dementia – “they start to try to entertain the babies, and begin to actually make sense, and tap into memories they haven’t visited in so long”.
The rest homes, Lucy and other Wairarapa mums have visited so far include Wharekaka in Martinborough, Roseneath Lifecare in Carterton, and Lansdowne Court and Glenwood Masonic in Masterton.
“Loneliness is the biggest thing for me – it just crushes me to think about people sitting in a room by themselves,” Lucy said.
“Even though people do have company at rest homes, they can still get quite lonely, which is so sad because like, you’ve lived this amazing life, and then you end up alone.
“It crushes me, I hate it.”
Lucy said people tended to underestimate older people.
“They are so interesting. I met this one lady who was one of the first female police officers in the UK.
“You would never guess that she had this incredible past.”
Lucy calls the initiative ‘Intergenerational Playgroup’.
“It’s just a win-win-win situation.
“It’s great social development for children, it’s great for the elderly, and it’s great for Wairarapa mums to meet each other and have that support network.
“It’s like ‘adopt a grandparent’.”
At the latest playgroup at Carterton’s Roseneath Lifecare, one of the residents became so overwhelmed with happiness at seeing the babies that she began to cry, Lucy said.
“That set off one of the mums who was crying and then me too, but it was so funny because at that moment none of the babies were crying.
“It affects everyone, the mums, the babies, the residents, and the staff.”
Ann Wilson, Diversional Therapist at Roseneath Lifecare said it has been “a pleasure” to hold the Playgroups in their Village Hall.
“It is great to see how animated our residents become when they see the babies.
“Having the opportunity to hold them brings back lots of special memories.”
To keep up to date with the Intergenerational Playgroup, join the Wairarapa Mum’s group on Facebook.