Why Schools Need To Embrace The Old

How often does your school involve older members of the local community? Is it something along the lines of inviting them over for Christmas lunch once a year?

The rather depressing reality is that Britain is one of the most age-segregated societies in the world and that’s not good for our wellness and wellbeing. Yet there are a wealth of benefits as a result of intergenerational projects especially involving schools as young and old can have fun and learn together.

As Age UK have found,

A number of schools are using intergenerational projects to help build better relationships between young and old people as well as tackle issues such as bullying and bereavement.

Most of the time schools paint a good picture of ‘involving the community’ but how interactive are they in involving older people?

Saga report that intergenerational projects are springing up across the UK yet there aren’t enough and nurseries and schools need to do more.

The new report from United For All Ages is an important one for everyone in education to engage in.

The next generation focuses on the benefits for “children and young people who currently face a growing crisis of confidence, loneliness and anxiety, often fearful about the future, fragmented families, segregated by age, with cuts in services and financial support.”

The key recommendations in the paper to maximise the benefits for the next generation and create a stronger country are:

1. Every nursery, childminder , parent/toddler group and children’s centre should link with a local older people’s care home or housing scheme – and vice versa.

2. Every primary and secondary school should involve and engage with older people in their community – from hosting older volunteers and services to linking with care providers.

3. Every community should explore opportunities to develop places where younger and older people can mix and share activities and experiences – creating 500 centres for all ages by 2023.

4. Every local authority should develop a strategy for building communities for all ages where meaningful mixing is part of everyday life – involving local people and providers.

5. Every children’s and young people’s charity and community organisation should look at how to solve tough issues facing the next generation through intergenerational projects.

6. Funders should support projects that promote positive relationships building trust and understanding between younger and older people – working with the media to rid Britain of ageism.

7. Investors should look outside the box of age-related silos to invest in imaginative co-located care, learning and housing schemes that bring younger and older people together.

8. Government should support and promote mixing between different generations through intergenerational care, learning and housing, explaining why it’s key to creating better services, stronger communities, a stronger Britain and an end to ageism

We can all create a better Britain for the next generation. There are big economic and social benefits for everyone involved – and our collective futures depend on making it happen.

In some parts of the country these recommendations are already things taking place.

You might have seen the TV programme Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds, which was filmed at Lark Hill Retirement Village in Clifton, Nottingham. This social experiment was a huge success benefiting both young and old alike and the results are absolutely amazing.

It proved scientifically that these two generations can transform the physical, social and emotional well-being of the older volunteers for the better. All of the residents reported improvements in their mood, memory and mobility.

The concept is inspired by America, where there are now over 500 ‘inter-generational’ schemes.

Dr Melrose Stewart, a lecturer at University of Birmingham and vice president of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, is one of the three experts involved in the Channel 4 project and she says,

I expected there to be positive changes, but I was absolutely blown away by the impact the children had in such a short space of time.


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