The Old Vicarage Care Home in Llangollen hired professional storyteller Fiona Collins as a care worker and activities assistant at the onset of the pandemic to help keep the residents’ spirits up when they were missing their families.
During the early months of lockdown, Fiona encouraged the residents to share their life-stories with each other in the garden and unearthed a treasure trove of post-war adventures.
Now those experiences – which include a resident learning to drive at the age of nine in a hearse from her grandfather’s funeral business and another hitchhiking her way around Europe after the war – will become a part of history in a new book called Lockdown Legends.
The book, which has been professionally illustrated by local artist and illustrator Peter Stevenson includes a foreword from Heléna Herklots CBE, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.
It includes the stories of 17 residents – two of whom have sadly passed away since the book has been published.
The home is owned by Bethan Mascarenhas and her brother Richard.
"Our idea was to keep everybody socially involved because our biggest worry was that people would become isolated and as soon as somebody becomes isolated they become disengaged and we see less mobility and depression setting in,” she said.
Ena Strange, 99, who grew up in Liverpool, said the experience of telling life stories had really helped during lockdown.
“We were fortunate,, to be here as we still had people to talk to with the other residents and staff. For someone living alone it must’ve been terrible," she said.
"When the war came I was called up and went into the National Fire Service and was stationed on Salford Docks."
Former Trevor town councillor and retired special needs teacher Iola Roberts, 87, surprised her fellow residents with her tales of childhood.
“I was born and bred in Llangollen. My grandfather had a business as an undertaker and I learned to drive when I was nine – a hearse! It was brilliant."
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of social care champions Care Forum Wales, said: "“Lockdown was a deeply worrying time for care homes, particularly for residents and their families, and I am so grateful to The Old Vicarage for transforming the experience in such a positive and poignant way."
Storyteller Fiona, from Carrog, said the book proved that you should never make assumptions about people, particularly if you meet people later on in their lives.
"They have done some amazing things in their lives you wouldn’t know if you didn’t take the chance to get to know them and talk to them. It has been a real honour to hear their stories and find out about their adventures."