ARU Research Report 2019

26 The Up Project Awareness & Normalisation The children described a new found understanding of ageing, age-related illness and dementia from their visits. They described the conditions of older adults to demonstrate what they had discovered and drew comparisons from what they had understood before visiting the care home to now, illustrating their changing perceptions of ‘elderlies’: ‘I learnt that elderly people are a bit like children, they’re funny, they have a good sense of humour and things like that, and they say random things, I thought that was quite funny. I didn’t think they wouldn’t be funny, I just didn’t realise that they were that funny.’ (Child 1) ‘I knew that their limbs could get more worn out, but I didn’t really know that their minds would change.’ (Child 5) Their initial apprehensions gone, they now approached dementia with positivity, explaining they had come to understand through interaction how someone with dementia might behave and how they could respond to this or support them: ‘I learnt a bit more on how to talk to people with dementia, play with them, and just help them do more things, and I learnt how people with dementia act. Some of themwere quite funny and a bit random.’ (Child 6) They described with surprise the talent and humour of the older adults, appreciating that while ageing may have caused them to become less able or unwell, it had not stripped away their ability to be enjoy and engage with life. The result of these new realisations was normalisation, in which they recognised that older people were people; normal people; and people just like them: ‘I feel like I used to think that elderlies were whole different people basically, but now I’ve gone to visit them they’re just like us, they’re just a bit older.’ (Child 5) ‘They didn’t seem like they had dementia because they were perfectly fine, they were really nice to us.’ (Child 7) The children’s growing understanding was also commented on by care home staff, who observed this in the interactions at the care home and through their dialogues with the children. They recognised that through understanding stigmas relating to ageing and dementia could be challenged, and as the younger generation such would have important ramifications for them and for ageing communities: ‘And, I do think it has good bearings on both, I really do and what I like to, personally, for me, it’s knowing that our younger generation, as they grow up, dementia is not going to be something that’s not so known; people are going to knowmore about it, it’s going to be more understood by the community and things like that… So, the more people know, the more people learn and it can’t be a bad thing and that’s the way I look at it. We’re now teaching the younger generation who are going to grow up knowing more. Mental health, it’s part of mental health, mental health needs to be done a bit more, it’s not shameful. You knowwhat the past has always been like for mental health, so for me, it’s getting it out there.’ (Member of care home staff). ‘They might have that feeling in the back of their mind that they’re going in to an old people’s home or they may be slightly daunted or unaware of how someone looks [that is old] but that’s all down to their age, but it’s very good and it gives them an insight to, coming in to people’s care homes and seeing elderly people and it’s very knowledgeable for them.’ (Member of care home Staff) Care home staff also observed the children’s understanding of dementia and empathy for the older adults in their approach during interactions. They described how the children were indiscriminative, interacting with all older adults and treating them as ‘normal’ people. The children did not correct or demean, allowing the older adults to be the ‘adult’. Care home staff indicated this gave older adults the freedom to engage in whatever form they could, without consciousness of their cognitive or health impairments: