Generations Working Together (GWT) the centre for excellence in in intergenerational (IG) work in Scotland places emphasis on the ‘real’ difference that IG work makes to health and wellbeing of individuals both young and old and the communities that they live in. IG work is more than just ‘feel good’ activities and can tackle issues in our communities to help build safer places, reduce inequality, social isolation, and loneliness, build relationships that improve mental health and wellbeing and listen to community voices on issues that contribute to the social determinants of health.
IG practice has been kept alive in our communities during the pandemic since 2020, moving from face to face to a more virtual contact initially, but slowly groups are coming back together again. GWT believe that intergenerational work has a unique and significant contribution to make towards a healthier and happier society.
Older people offer life experience, wisdom, talents, and skills that are often forgotten, and are a unique perspective within their local community. They make important contributions as family members, carers, volunteers, and as active participants in the workforce. Young people bring a new and refreshing view of the changing world we live in as well as qualities such as energy, creativity, and enthusiasm. We need to change our thought processes from a deficit-based one to instead take an asset-based view looking positively at the resources, experiences and knowledge that young and old people possess and have to share.
IG practice provides solutions that can help to relieve isolation and involve people in community activities, contributing to improved general health and wellbeing. It can promote positive behaviours by sharing skills and creating safe environments for activities and exchanging life skills and experiences across age groups.
Staying connected whilst staying apart
GWT offered resources designed to share what we have learned about intergenerational engagement during the pandemic. We shared some of the research findings and presented a detailed list of inspiring intergenerational initiatives that continued virtually focusing on creativity, art, and storytelling; helping each other; accessing vaccines; tutoring and mentoring; pen pals; and shared sites. We concluded with tips for addressing the digital divide; lessons learned; checklist for virtual intergenerational programs; and resources to help communities get started or strengthen their existing intergenerational work.
Looking at ageism through an intergenerational lens
IG work can combat ageism by bringing young and old together and breaking down the misunderstanding that can exist between generations. Ageism can affect a persons health and contribute to poor mental health and physiological health with negative stereotyping contributing to self esteem and isolation and loneliness.
Social isolation is a well-known problem in later life, but young people can be equally affected via different roots, such as bullying, lack of social activities and economic issues. IG work can assist towards ending loneliness and includes breaking down the barriers that get in the way of relationships in later life – from sheer distance or physical constraints to impediments, such as the fear of crime or high cost.
Some examples of intergenerational projects
The Snow Queen Intergenerational Project working in an intergenerational way has always been an important aspect of the Time to Dance programme, and Scottish Ballet was keen to work in the community with care home settings. They brought local primary school pupils into Erskine Home, Bishopton, to work together on a creative project. Benefits to health and wellbeing are recorded here.
Anam Cara provides a short-stay respite service within a residential setting to individuals (guests) who have a diagnosis or probable diagnosis of dementia. The participants of the intergenerational project enjoy a variety of activities together including games for example parachute games, singing and playing musical instruments.
The Care Commission Report produced following three years of partnership work with aim to improve physical activity in a variety of ways and settings for older people experiencing care. The report has been found to benefit both the older people engaged and the care professionals themselves.
Intergenerational Guide to sharing food Food for Life Get Togethers are events and activities that create meaningful connections between different generations through cooking, growing, and eating good food and can help people have a healthy relationship with food and each other, regardless of their age or background.
Old’s Cool Toolkit The Citadel Youth Centre’s Old’s Cool Intergenerational Project aimed to train and support young people at risk of disengaging from school, to facilitate intergenerational activity with older people, and to present a record of their work to the wider community.
Apples and Honey Nightingale House is an intergenerational nursery collocated in the ground of a care home. Designing an intergenerational City – Ageing societies are prompting cities to rethink how they are structured and operate, both physically and socially.
Connecting generations is an approach which creates communities that nurture and support younger and older people. Generations Working Together will continue the focus on promoting intergenerational working to improve health and wellbeing through supporting the development of evidence for those already adopting IG approaches. We plan to continue to disseminate findings and will work to foster links and activities to benefit all of Scotland’s generations.
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Generations Working Together are Exhibitors at the VHS Annual Conference 2021.