Creche takes grannies back to childhood

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The Independent Online
Britain's first ever "granny creche", where people can leave elderly relatives, is due to open in Oxford this summer.

Employees of the Radcliffe Hospital NHS Trust can leave grandparents in a "stimulating environment" with art classes, cookery, memory strategies and indoor hockey. There will also be outings to Blenheim Palace, shopping centres and pubs. The trust is running a pilot scheme with 20 places in an adapted day unit staffed by nurses and occupational therapists.

When the idea was first suggested by the occupational department it was "greeted with delight" by carers and their relatives, said Mike Fleming, the director of personnel. "Besides the advantage of proximity [to each other] they will be in a hospital with nursing care and no worries about special feeds or dressings," he said.

The pilot scheme, emphasising "dignity and quality of life", is free and will run from 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, but it is hoped it will be extended to 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. If it is made permanent, fees of about pounds 2 an hour will be charged.

Lynch Mason, the occupational therapy services manager, said there would be no lower age limit for the service. It will be open for "anyone who feels comfortable and wants to go".Activities will be tailored to individuals: "We'll cater for people's interests whether that is art, sculpture, adult literacy or doing the crossword.

"Cookery groups are extremely popular and the elderly person could take a meal home in the evening so they feel they are contributing something to the family," added Miss Mason.

At the moment there are almost 11 million people of pensionable age in Britain. That figure is expected to rise to almost 17 million within the next 35 years.

Terry Philpot editor of Community Care magazine said: "Any initiative which provides high standards of care for elderly people and takes the pressure off carers should be welcomed. We are ill-prepared for the coming population explosaion among elderly people."

Charities representing pensioners expressed reservations. A spokeswoman for Help The Aged said: "We welcome initiatives to set up 'granny creches' but they must be active places providing a stimulating environment, not just dumping grounds for elderly relatives."