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Toddlers' cuddles bringing joy to care home residents

Elderly people in Kilwinning are being taken on heart-warming trips to a local nursery.

Crocs and Tots: Age is no limit for these new best friends.
Crocs and Tots: Age is no limit for these new best friends. STV

One afternoon, on a quiet road in Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, a group of elderly care home residents wrap up and head outside.

It's autumn and a little chilly to be out of doors but this group have some very important neighbours to visit who they could never let down.

One side of the road is lined with trees, the other with the neat low white railings of Buckreddan Care Centre.

Together, the group follow them in a straight line, just a few yards away, to a low brick building next door bordered by a few young saplings.

They're eagerly expected - after two months of these special visits, the little people inside know to expect their best friends.

Over the last eight weeks, the toddlers of Little Deers Nursery in North Ayrshire have been receiving visits from residents at the care home.

Story time at Little Deers Nursery.
Story time at Little Deers Nursery. STV

One afternoon a week, their elderly friends venture down the road to spend time with the children, reading books, building forts or simply chatting away.

Set up as a project to help improve the emotional and physical well-being of all involved, the Crocs and Tots programme has been so successful organisers hope it can expand to more than one meeting a week.

It is one of a number of care homes across Scotland which have teamed up with a nursery school.

Some of the residents with dementia have found the sessions are helping them, as they remember the children they meet and look forward to seeing them again.

Toddlers and residents have been making new friends.
Toddlers and residents have been making new friends. STV

"I've only been coming two or three weeks but I really enjoy the company of the kids," says one resident.

"We're met at the door by them and the greeting that we got told us everything.

"Obviously they like to see us come along and it's a wee bit of an escape for us to come in - it's a good thing for us a well."

The children's language and social skills are said to have improved.
The children's language and social skills are said to have improved. STV

The children's language and social skills are said to have improved, too, and organisers have said it melts the heart to see the special friendships being formed.

"The kids absolutely adore the residents," says Buckreddan Care Centre actives officer Leanne Kerr.

"They've all got their special wee favourites and when I take the residents back over the road they're buzzing for the full day.

"It's all they'll talk about and they can't wait to come back the next week."

Reading time is especially popular.
Reading time is especially popular. STV

The programme comes in the same year Channel 4 released a documentary of a similar project in Bristol.

Old People's Home for Four Year Olds, followed children swapping their nursery for a nursing home as they joined a group of pensioners at St Monica's Care Home for six weeks.

Before the documentary, the residents had been monitored for their physical and mental health and were found to be suffering from low moods, a loss of purpose and mobility problems.

Crocs for Tots has been running for two months.
Crocs for Tots has been running for two months. STV

Half of them had no immediate family, including their own children or grandchildren, and admitted to feeling lonely.

Once the children started arriving at the home every day for six weeks, each of the residents saw incredible improvements in their health and mental wellbeing after the children completely won them over.

It has been a similar situation in Scotland, with Crocs for Tots.

"It melts your heart because sometimes they don't get a lot of visitors," says Leanne.

"So this is their time to have that cuddle."

After all, for these new best friends age is nothing but a number.

Additional reporting by Clare McNeill.

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