Opinion Wellbeing

Bridging the gap: building intergenerational relationships

Shaleeza Hasham, Founder and CEO, Adopt a Grandparent

Shaleeza Hasham, Founder and CEO, Adopt a Grandparent

Creating opportunities to build new relationships and make rewarding connections for residents in care homes has long been a challenging issue for care providers. The risk is that feelings of isolation or disconnection can negatively impact the mental and physical well-being of elderly individuals. Adopt a Grandparent’s ‘outside the box’ approach to helping care home residents make new, meaningful connections was born of pandemic restrictions. It was also greatly influenced by the founder’s own experience of growing up in the grounds of their family-run care home and the lasting impact of the intergenerational relationships they formed with the residents.

The impact of loneliness

Some of the main causes of loneliness for those over 60 include the loss of friends and bereavement, meanwhile diminishing social and community networks are major causes for those over 80. While loneliness can touch us all, for our elderly population studies show it’s associated with negative feelings, such as sadness, numbness, pain, hopelessness, and low self-worth. In more severe cases, research also shows that loneliness in the elderly can lead to increased risk of cognitive decline, dementia, reduced physical and mental health, high blood pressure and increased risk of mortality.

Adopt a Grandparent works to recruit and pair young volunteers with older adults based on common ground and shared interest or hobbies. The pair then has regular video calls from within its dedicated, custom-developed app which provides a safe and secure space for pairings to nurture their budding and rewarding friendship.

The benefits of meaningful relationships

Intergenerational interactions can have profound psychological benefits, reducing feelings of loneliness and depression as well as helping older residents become more engaged, active, and enthusiastic about life.

One of Adopt a Grandparent’s recent pairings is a great example of this. Robin Smith, 65, is a resident of Poplars Care Home, Ruislip. He was paired with Tiffany Lim as a reflection of a shared interest in chess as well as a way for Robin to explore his love of the Far East as Tiffany currently resides in Japan. On his calls with Tiffany, Robin said; “I look forward to chatting with Tiffany enormously. She tells me all about her life, her job in advertising and the incredible technology in Japan – her television only has two buttons and is also a radio, and her computer is touchscreen, it’s incredible.

“I talk about engineering which is the field I used to work in and am still very passionate about and she really listens to me.

“We’ve had some truly memorable moments on our calls too. I can’t see too well so she often describes the view from her window to me but she has also taken the computer over to the window to show me the view of Tokyo from her 8th floor apartment. That was wonderful.

“Talking to Tiffany really makes me feel less lonely. It’s a shame she’s on the other side of the world but my chats with her are something to look forward to – she makes my day brighter.”

Training and support

To ensure the success of this intergenerational initiative, Adopt a Grandparent provides comprehensive training and support to both the young volunteers and care home staff through a partnership with Barclays Digital Eagles. A bespoke training platform equips ‘grandchildren’ with valuable communication skills, sensitivity training, and a better understanding of the challenges older adults may face. With specific modules covering communicating with those living with dementia, the training not only helps to open up more care home residents to ‘adoption’ but also helps to build a more inclusive society as young volunteers take these newfound skills into the wider world.

The charity also offers resources to care home staff to help them support residents taking part and ensure they get the most out of their pairing.

By adopting an innovative intergenerational approach, Adopt a Grandparent has helped care providers successfully tackle loneliness in its care home participants, enriching the lives of both elderly residents and young volunteers. As this heartwarming initiative continues to expand its reach, it serves as an inspiring reminder that a little creativity and compassion can go a long way in building a stronger and more connected community.

Getting involved

Adopt a Grandparent’s groundbreaking approach has touched the lives of older adults and young volunteers alike. With more than 90,000 young volunteers, the charity is calling for more care homes to sign-up and offer residents the chance to take part and benefit from the programme.

To register your care home visit www.adoptagrandparent.org.uk/register-your-care-home.

Fundraising is essential to helping Adopt a Grandparent continue to grow and develop the programme, to support the charity with a donation visit https://gofund.me/82513238




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