A new report has called for the introduction of 500 intergenerational shared sites to unite young and old people and counter ‘age apartheid’.
According to think-tank United for All Ages in its ‘Mixing Matters’ report published this month, urgent action is needed to create shared sites across the country by 2022 to tackle growing social divides in ‘Brexit Britain’.
In the report’s analysis of recent research, it found that Britain is one of the most age-segregated countries in the world, particularly for the oldest and youngest generations, and said this gap has widened over the past 50 years.
The report suggested a lack of age integration makes it harder to solve long-term unemployment, recruitment and career progression, and community health and well-being.
United for All Ages made three key recommendations for bringing older and younger people together:
- Building multigenerational communities: supporting community businesses, making public spaces more accessible, opening community facilities to all ages, co-locating childcare and eldercare schemes.
- Mutual support through two-way relationships: online mentoring of younger people, advocacy for older people needing health and social care, ‘homeshare’ schemes where younger people live with older people, increased interaction between grandfathers and grandchildren.
- Better communication between generations: establishing a national council for all ages supported by an intergenerational convention, building bridges between generations using arts activities and street parties.
According to the think-tank, shared sites such as housing schemes for the elderly co-located with nurseries should be prioritised as they provide a number of benefits, including:
- older residents experiencing more activities, better physical and mental health and less isolation and loneliness
- children experiencing enhanced early learning and social development, which boosts confidence
- parents mixing with people of all ages, and able to work knowing their children have good childcare
- relatives and families of older people benefiting from their increased interaction and better health
- providers of eldercare and childcare gaining a USP, as well as reduced costs and happier clients
- eldercare and childcare staff offered more interesting opportunities and childcare support if required
- the wider community gaining a local centre for all ages to share.
The report highlights the growth of shared sites in 2017, including the first ‘care-home nursery’ at Apples and Honey Nightingale in south west London and Downshall Primary School’s eldercare day centre in Essex.
It also mentions Channel 4 programme 'Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds', which raised awareness of such projects.
United for All Ages has also compiled a sliding scale of how interaction between old and young can be achieved, with 5 having the most interaction:
1. Nurseries undertaking occasional visits to care homes.
2. Nurseries and parent and toddler groups visiting care homes on a weekly basis.
3. Nurseries and care homes that are located next door or as close neighbours.
4. Nurseries and care homes located on the same site that undertake some joint activities.
5. Nurseries and care homes that are co-located and fully integrated where older people and children and staff and families interact daily.
The report features contributions from 20 national organisations concerned about improving relations between the generations, including care home provider Anchor, the Intergenerational Foundation and the New Economics Foundation.
Chuka Umunna MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, said in the report, ‘There is growing political will to build bridges across a number of social divides, including age, which were brought into sharp focus by recent political events… I believe our APPG’s inquiry… has the power to convert this growing political will into practical action.’
Director of United for All Ages, Stephen Burke, said, ‘We are divided by class, income, race, geography and age. The mistrust that arises from such divisions is fuelled by the lack of connection between different generations. This can breed myths and stereotypes, misunderstanding, ageism and exclusion.
‘The joy of mixing can unite Brexit Britain in these divided times. As surveys repeatedly show, older and younger generations have much more in common than some would have us believe. Now’s the time to make shared sites happen because mixing matters for everybody.’
CASE STUDY: TORBAY COUNCIL
Torbay Council has developed a lottery-funded songwriting and music performance project with musicians, care home residents and childminders.
The project was comprised of six weekly music sessions in three residential care homes, with residents, childminders and children attending a morning’s music session and then having lunch together. All sessions were recorded and then shared in the community as a film and drama production called ‘Going to Charlie’s House’.
Lorraine George, childcare development worker for the early years advisory team at Torbay Council, said, ‘One resident who can be seen singing a song he made up had dementia, and he went from refusing to have any contact with the children at the start of the project to happy and engaged, singing songs all the time. You can also see his wife’s response when he starts singing as she had never heard him sing – ever!
‘Although the project has finished, the childminders and children continue to visit while we move on to new care homes and new projects. We are now developing permanent childminder spaces within some care homes for childminders to meet in and hopefully work from as part of their 50 per cent rule.’