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The Rise, fall and rise of generations growing together

Denise Burke, Director and Co-Founder of intergenerational think-do tank, United for All Ages, examines the fluctuation of intergenerational action in the UK.

As Global Intergenerational Week (24-30 April) comes to an end for another year, it’s a good time to celebrate and reflect on the rise, fall and rise of intergenerational action in the UK.

In short, the last ten years have been a rollercoaster ride. Until spring 2020 we saw a massive growth in activities bringing older and younger people together. Then the pandemic and lockdown meant that mixing stopped in care homes, nurseries, schools and communities for three years. But over the last year plus, we have seen a resurgence in intergenerational interaction as everyone realises what we missed during Covid.

Thousands of care homes and older people’s housing schemes are now linked in various ways with local schools and nurseries. This has many benefits for older people, for young people and for all ages in between – care and education providers and workers, relatives of older people and parents of children as well as their local communities.

For older people, care providers recognise that regular interaction with children brings a mix of joy, fun and magic that adds purpose and meaning to life. The Care Quality Commission also regularly highlights intergenerational activities in improving the quality of care and promoting the mental and physical well-being of older people including those with dementia.

For children it is happy learning, with older adults who have the time and interest to share in activities. The need to develop children’s social and communication skills has increased since Covid.

Bringing generations together helps promote mutual awareness and understanding, tackling ageism as well as loneliness and isolation. Uniting generations and sharing experiences and activities strengthens families and communities.

The key to success is regular contact, well organised activities which older people and children are involved in planning, with committed staff and leaders.

As intergenerational interaction has taken off again over the last year, there are exciting developments to report:

  • New co-located care homes and nurseries have opened, most notably run by Olea Care Group in Stockport and Ready Generations with Belong Chester. United for All Ages is working with several other new sites in the pipeline. Apples & Honey Nightingale in London also goes from strength to strength offering a range of training courses as a centre for intergenerational practice.
  • Two of the largest intergenerational projects have brought together schools with local care homes. Intergenerational Linking and Move & Groove are now sharing their learning as well as sustaining their programmes.
  • The Together Project has been scaling up its Songs & Smiles project which enables parent and toddler groups to visit care homes with regular music and arts activities, reaching many more care homes across the country.
  • The first intergenerational play garden on a care home site has opened in Bath at Hallmark Care Homes’ Midford Manor, funded by Hallmark Foundation and developed with London Play, to encourage intergenerational and family friendly interaction.
  • At Southampton University, students are leading a project which is linking local nurseries with care homes, providing an extra resource to oil the wheels and bring young and older people together.

Alongside these activities, there are more academic studies researching the impact of intergenerational interaction and the wide-ranging benefits for care providers and staff as well as older and young people.

We hope to see more of these projects celebrated in Care Talk’s new Dementia Care Awards which United for All Ages is proud to support through a special intergenerational category. And the forthcoming Care Home Open Week (24-30 June) organised by Championing Social Care will be another opportunity for care homes to engage with their local communities and start something new.




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