A TODDLER group with a difference is giving residents a ‘new lease of life’ at an Abingdon care home.

Called Little Bears, the sessions bring together pre-school age children and residents at Bridge House care home for songs, games and crafts.

Twelve residents ranging in age from 79 to 101 took part in the launch on Wednesday.

One of them was Bridge House resident Joan Brice, who said: “It is one of the most enjoyable things to be part of and the children bring so much joy.”

The 83-year-old added: “I just love to see their little faces, I already can’t wait for the next one.”

Elizabeth Coleman, 88, added: “It’s one of the best reasons to get up in the morning to be faced with such great energy and enjoyment.”

Around 11 children between the ages of four weeks and four years attended the inaugural session together with their parents and carers.

Rita King, 98, said: “I can’t remember the last time I got to hold a very new born baby.

“It was just wonderful and it made lots of memories of my own children come flooding back”.

Parents were also enthusiastic about the new group.

Kirsty Fray, mother of seven-month-old Grace, said: “I loved taking my daughter and seeing the residents' faces light up when we sing songs and play. I would recommend this group to anyone.”

The launch follows a trial earlier this year that proved so popular the home already has a waiting list for the monthly sessions.

Home manager June Maharaj said they were an extension of a popular Saturday music group for young children from the community and residents, which has been running since last year.

She added: “At the trial session it was clear just how much the residents loved to hold the babies and play with the older ones.

“Mixing with the children seemed to give them a new lease of life which is wonderful to see.

“In one case, to our surprise, a resident who is normally very immobile started to play a game with inflatable hoops with the children.”

The initiative is based on research that shows elderly people who experience close intergenerational social interaction are less prone to depression and enjoy a reduced risk of disease.

The concept began more than 40 years ago when a nursery school and a care home were combined in Japan. Since then, there have been successful schemes across Europe, Australia and the US.

A joint care home and nursery launched in Wandsworth, London, earlier this year, becoming the first of its kind in the UK.

To find out more about Little Bears sessions, which are held on the last Wednesday of the month, contact lifestyle@bridgehouseabingdon.co.uk