I work for an intergenerational charity in Scotland called Generations Working Together. We aim to bring younger and older people together, to encourage projects where younger and older people mix and to support our members to connect our communities together. We do this because bringing younger and older people together tackles loneliness, isolation, and ageism in our society. Intergenerational projects can also help support health and wellbeing, as well as teaching both younger and older people new skills.
Intergenerational projects have received more and more coverage over the last few years, with some, such as the Older People’s Homes for Four Year Olds receiving millions of views when it was aired. If you haven’t seen it, we recommend that you see what happens when young children and older people connect, build friendships, and play together. The show can be found on Channel 4 https://www.channel4.com/programmes/old-peoples-home-for-4-year-olds.
You might be wondering how this links into Faith in Older People or faith groups at this point and the good news is that it links to faith groups very well. Churches and religious gatherings are natural places for an intergenerational activity to take place, not just for the family but for the whole community. Some of the key principles and values overlap, for example supporting others, working for the good of your community, helping those in need. Many groups are the centres of their communities and organise events and activities around arts, food, and music. This means that intergenerational projects in faith settings work well. However, intergenerational connections will not happen naturally, therefore we recommend intergenerational training, structured projects and interventions, and activities that bring different generations together.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has made some of these connections harder to facilitate as we have moved away from the face to face visits over the last few months. Generations Working Together has been advising our 3,000 members on how to continue bringing generations together during this difficult time. First, we decided to move our intergenerational network meetings online. The meetings still take place at our normal schedule and on zoom, enabling people from each area to meet online. We felt that this was vital to continue engagement with our members and this also helps local people to organise for volunteering and intergenerational projects. We have also increased the amount of positive and inspiring content that we put out on our website and social media. We have also managed to apply for funding from the Scottish Government to create an intergenerational directory that people can use during the pandemic. This is free to everyone based in Scotland and is part of the memberships for anyone outside Scotland. The directory includes safety tips, online resources, and ideas on how to connect generations. The directory can be accessed on our website. https://generationsworkingtogether.org/resources/directory-of-intergenerational-ideas-and-resources-for-use-during-covid-19-crisis.
Another way that we have adapted to the pandemic is by expanding our operations and hiring new temporary staff to help the COVID-19 relief effort. We have done this after realising that we could help during this time to connect communities. We are already part of various groups including the Scottish Government’s Older People’s Strategic Action Forum which looks at how we can support older people and tackle issues such as loneliness together. The extra government funding we have applied for will help us map different projects, connect leaders in the community together, and will enable us to create online training which will be free for the new volunteers that the Scottish Government has recruited to support communities during COVID-19. We have managed to turn some of our volunteers into staff. The new staff have been creating a database of care homes and calling them to offer support and resources, including intergenerational resources.
We also felt that the training would be one of the best ways to support the new volunteers as ageism and stereotypes must be challenged when connecting generations. Most of us do not interact with people from different generations very frequently in our everyday life and the new volunteers will be supporting, checking in on, and delivering food and medicines to people from different generations. While this is a very difficult situation it can also be a time for communities to come together if the volunteers are given the tools and understanding of the challenges faced by different generations. We hope that with our training and support the volunteers will be encouraged to get to know the people they are supporting and that the friendships will continue after the pandemic. We have learned that generations can still stay connected and that powerful things can happen when communities help each other. We hope that this realisation lasts beyond the pandemic.
We can support anyone who wants to learn more, share their intergenerational practice, or needs some support is through intergenerational networks that we run online and through resources and case studies. Another is through a newsletter that we send twice a month. To read more or to join as a free member (if based in Scotland) please visit our website. https://generationsworkingtogether.org/.
Communications and Policy Officer
Generations Working Together