A four-year-old and an 86-year-old have become ‘best friends’ on the set of a Channel 4 TV experiment aimed at tackling the epidemic of loneliness among the elderly.
Scarlett Pollard, who lost her mother Sally to cancer just 18 months ago, met pensioner Beryl Poulson during filming for the show Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Olds in Nottingham.
They appeared on ITV’s This Morning on Friday ahead of the show’s return to screens on Monday to discuss their unlikely friendship – and shared an adorable moment when Scarlett gave her new pal a hug.
The aim of the experiment is to give the pensioners a new lease of life, building on studies that show mixing children with older people has huge benefits for both age groups.
The youngsters relocated to a temporary nursery set up at Lark Hill Village, Nottingham, which is home to more than 400 OAPs, for three months.
During the first day of the experiment Scarlett was drawn to Beryl and the pair shared an immediate connection.
As part of a task to get to know each other nursery teacher Libby asked: ‘Beryl, if you are all right to help Scarlett write, “To Mummy and Daddy…”‘
But then in the heartbreaking clip which aired on This Morning, Scarlett interrupts, to explain: ‘No, my mum’s died, so Gran-Gran and Daddy.’
Scarlett’s father Tim Pollard, 54, explained on the daytime ITV programme that his wife Sally had died six months before the experiment began.
Sally had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and in 2016 on their wedding day was told that the cancer had spread to her brain.
‘She will always be the little girl whose mum died when she was three. But I don’t want her to grow up to be the woman whose life was blighted by her mum dying when she was three,’ he said.
Beryl said she was keen to volunteer after seeing the first series of the programme which had rave reviews.
‘I had seen the previous series and loved it so much and thought I wanted to be a part of it,’ she said on This Morning.
The pensioner explained that they made ‘instant friends’ and would sit every morning for their morning hot drink before the children would come in to greet them.
Scarlett would sit on her lap and they would take part in activities, chatting openly about her mother.
After they enjoyed a hug on the daytime show she said: ‘She’s my best friend aren’t you?’
Scarlett sweetly replied: ‘Yeah.’
Some nurseries in the US have existed in old people’s homes for 25 years, but last year’s Channel 4 series set in Bristol was the first time the scheme had been attempted here.
This year it is the turn of Lark Hill Village in Nottingham, where ten pensioners ranging in age from 81 to 102 were chosen to take part, with a team of experts on hand to test how their mood, memory and mobility could be transformed.
The pensioners this time are much older and the nursery runs for twice as long, stretching the older group’s stamina with excursions, dancing and a daily timetable of nursery activities.
A team of geriatric specialists medically tested the impact the children had on the older group and the results demonstrated significant improvements in mood, movement and mobility of the older group.
The first series had such a considerable impact that St Monica Trust in Bristol announced they would be establishing a permanent nursery at one of their sites.
This Morning airs weekdays on ITV at 10.30am and Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Old’s starts Monday on Channel 4 at 9pm