A graduation ceremony with a difference saw residents of a Fife care home don their caps and robes as they celebrated their life achievements.
The event took place at Chapel Level Care Home in Kirkcaldy on Friday, the first time the home has held such an event with plans for it to be held annually.
It came about as part of the home’s reminiscing project, which it called My Life, Our Streets, celebrating the memories of each of resident and what life was like for them growing up.
The care home’s wellbeing coordinator Gayle Irwin was talking to each resident about their school experience and what they went on to do and achieve once they had left.
During these discussions she discovered a lot of them had left school early, many in their early teens, and so had never attended a graduation ceremony or prom, as is the norm of young people today.
Gayle said: “A lot of our residents here never got the chance to graduate. They left school between the ages of about 13 and 15 and went to work in places such as factories, on farms and some went into the military.
“I found all of this out during those reminiscing sessions. So many said that they left school at this age or that age and I said ‘oh you never got to graduate’ and they told me that wasn’t the done thing and they didn’t do that when they were younger.
“You just left school because your parents needed you to earn money and add to the household. And that’s when I suggested having a graduation and they all asked me why.
“They never got to do that and they’ve all done such amazing things with their life, so I thought why don’t we have a graduation of life and celebrate how amazing they all are and how much they’ve contributed to the world as people.
“They’ve all put a lot into their community. It’s really nice to be able to do this and celebrate their lives and all of their achievements.”
Along with the rest of the staff at Chapel Level Care Home she spent one month preparing for the big day with each of the residents graduating receiving their own cap, gown and diploma.
They later enjoyed a party with food, a specially made cake, drinks, dancing and music with live singing also being performed by Lily Mentiplay.
Among those graduating was 87-year-old Lilas McConnell, a former telephonist and keen animal lover whose grandfather owned a farm at Halbeath near Dunfermline and 88-year-old Paddy O’Connell, whose grandson owns O’Connell’s bar on Kirkcaldy High Street.
82-year-old George Rough, whose former job was as a welder in Nigeria and other countries in the Middle East, also ‘graduated’.
All of the residents said they were looking forward to enjoying the party and celebrating all of their achievements.
Pandemic a ‘difficult time’ for residents
And it was an extra special day following the tough time many care homes have experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw many residents unable to see their families for several months.
Gayle said: “Homes were closed down for so long and residents have been unable to get out on their normal trips.
“Normally the kind of things we do is go out on trips to the seaside or to museums or the theatre and we’ve been missing out on doing all of that.
“So we’ve really had to think outside the box for what we can do in here to make life seem normal and help keep people’s spirits up because that’s what its about.
“The last year and a half has been hard for anybody in here.
“We’re getting visits now but in the height of the pandemic last year there was no one in and out and if anyone wanted to see anyone it was through a glass window.
“People were holding up their newly born grandkids up to the windows and things, it was awful so any reason to celebrate we’re on it.”
Beba Graham, care home manager, who only took up her role days ago, said: “It’s brilliant. What she has done is amazing and is amazing for the residents.”