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A new report has called for the introduction of 500 intergenerational shared sites, places to unite young and old people, to counter ‘age apartheid’. According to think-tank United for All Ages in its ‘Mixing Matters’ report, urgent action is needed to create these shared spaces across the country by 2022 to tackle social divides.
As Stephen Burke, director of United for All Ages, says: “Integration allows young children to understand and value elderly people and see them as an integral part of the community as they grow up to be leaders of tomorrow.”
Learning from each other
Last year saw the growth of shared intergenerational centres, including the UK’s first ‘care-home nursery’ at Apples and Honey Nightingale in south west London and Downshall Primary School’s eldercare day centre in Essex.
Channel 4’s programme 'Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds', helped to raise awareness of these ground-breaking projects and shine a light on the enormous benefits for young and old. The documentary followed ten elderly volunteers, all residents of the St Monica Trust retirement home, being introduced to ten lively pre-schoolers who shifted their nursery into the retirement home for six weeks. The health benefits to the residents was evident with marked improvements to their mood, memory and mobility.
The idea that there are myriad health benefits from an intergenerational approach is not a new one; in the US and Japan combining nursery daycare with retirement care has really taken off.
Bridging the gap between generations also introduces children and young adults to a new range of life skills.
Charities such as HomeShare UK understand this and are working hard to connect older people with younger adults; one of the schemes it runs matches older people who want companionship, support or help around the house with young adults who need accommodation and are happy to help.
There are other great examples of student-led initiatives that are encouraging greater communication between the ages; Dr Georgina Binnie, impact and research fellow at the University of Leeds, founded Writing Back, an intergenerational letter writing campaign that matches University of Leeds students as pen pals with older Yorkshire residents. The project sees students and older members of the community tackling loneliness and improving wellbeing by exchanging letters.
More in common
These moves to challenge perceptions of old age and to encourage relationship building between generations all help to reveal that different generations have more in common than what separates them. This realisation comes at a crucial time for our ageing population as it is calculated that one in four of us will be over 65 by 2050.
At Close to Hand we’re advocates of this intergenerational approach and encourage social interactions between the younger and older members of our communities. Here are the benefits of generations coming together that we believe will be key drivers of change:
7 benefits of intergenerational relationships:
Mixing with different age groups can enhance emotional and social intelligence.
Providing an opportunity for both young and old to learn new skills.
It helps young people to understand and later accept their own ageing.
Engaging with younger people invigorates and energises older adults.
It can prevent isolation and loneliness for both parties.
Intergenerational sharing, with stories passed down through the ages, helps to keep local pride and history alive.
The wider community gains as ties between individuals become stronger and more meaningful connections are made.