Intergenerational Care Project welcomes pop-up farm

A pop-farm has visited the grounds of Charing Cross Hospital as part of a project to help improve the health and wellbeing of elderly patients.

Animals from Vauxhall City Farm, including chicks, rabbits, guinea pigs and lambs visited Charing Cross Hospital’s Anniversary Garden as part of the Intergenerational Care Project, funded by Imperial Health Charity. The patients were also joined by children from a local school and together they were able to hold and stroke the animals while also learning all about them.

The Intergenerational Care Project aims to show that spending time with children helps older patients feel happier and less isolated during their time in hospital with an increased sense of wellbeing and purpose. Sessions usually take place in the ward day rooms and include activities such as drama, poetry, singing, dancing, arts and crafts, all of which are delivered by local organisations.

On this occasion organisers decided to make use of the garden facilities at the hospital by inviting Vauxhall City Farm. Ahead of the session staff and patients from other parts of the hospital were also given the opportunity to spend time with the animals.  

Dr Charlotte Lance, who is leading the project with the Imperial College Healthcare Trust’s dementia team, said: 

“Animals are well known to have beneficial therapeutic effects. It was lovely to see the interactions between the children and the patients as they enjoyed the shared experience of petting the animals but also the huge impact the animals had on them individually.

“Since we started running the Intergenerational Care Project we have seen benefits for our patients including improved mood and compliance with medications and eating as well as reduced agitation and social isolation. It’s incredible to see.” 

The children have also benefitted: “Some of the children’s confidence levels have improved significantly. They are less anxious and more comfortable with talking to the patients and staff. They are also learning about the hospital environment and medical conditions such as dementia, learning difficulties, reduced mobility and amputations,” added Charlotte.

The farm will be visiting again in a couple of weeks with larger animals such as alpacas, sheep and goats along with smaller animals.

The 12-month Intergenerational Care Project began in August last year and is believed to be the first active intergenerational activities project to be carried out within an acute hospital setting. 

Imperial Health Charity opened the Charing Cross Anniversary Garden in October last year to celebrate the hospital’s 200th birthday. The garden has been specially designed to provide a safe, relaxing outdoor space for patients with dementia and other neurological conditions.