This year will be the fourth time the Bjønnesåsen residential and activity centre in Nøtterøy, south of Oslo, is looking to bring in a team of 16-17 year-olds to share the gladness during the school holidays.
“We began doing this in 2013 because we could see that several of our residents would benefit from extra visits when a lot of the staff were on holiday,” quality of life coordinator Berit Nysteen told broadcaster NRK.
Many of the regular staff are away during the summer period, living residents without somebody to keep them company or go out into the fresh air with.
“Our young joy spreaders go out with the elderly residents on cycle rides, play board games or barbecue in the garden. Our experience with the young people has been so good that we have also offered them work on the 17th of May [Norway’s national day, ed.] and Christmas Eve,” Nysteen said.
89-year-old Arne Johan Carlsen, one of the centre’s residents, who lost his wife three years ago, told NRK that talking to the young helpers added a bit of cheer to life at the centre.
“The visits are rather enjoyable. When the youngsters come and ask if I would like to join, I say ‘yes’ straightaway,” he said.
“Last year they arranged a wheelchair race and I won a medal, but I mainly enjoy singing or eating waffles and chatting a bit,” Carlsen continued.
Nysteen told NRK that, as far as she was aware, Nøtterøy was the only municipality in Norway that had opted to hire young people as ‘joy spreaders’.
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“I’ve not heard of anything, but of course it’s possible that there’s something similar,” she told the broadcaster.
The coordinator added that one of the aims of the initiative was to bring other parts of society into the centre.
“Our residents light up when the young people come here,” she said.
Carlsen added that the visits from the youth offered something different to regular visits from family.
“It really helps one’s humour to receive a visit. I think it’s quite splendid,” he said.