Intergenerational Week 2020
The first national Intergenerational Week 2020 takes place between 23rd and 29thMarch. The slogan for this inaugural event organised by St Monica’s Trust is “Say no to the age gap.” To mark the week we asked Intergenerational expert and campaigner, Stephen Burke at United for All Ages, to answer a few questions.
NB: Events have moved quickly in the last week and many of the Intergenerational Week events have been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. There are still positive and important things that can be done. We still ‘say no to the age gap’, but need to find different ways of saying so. Read on to find out more…
Insequa: Does sharing our lives with other generations create a tighter knit society?
SB: Our country is one of the most age segregated in the world. This lack of connection can create loneliness, ageism and division. Bringing different generations together to share activities and experiences, friendship and fun, can help increase understanding across the generations, showing that people of all ages share many concerns and worries, not least during the coronavirus crisis.
Insequa: With the current challenges of COVID-19, intergenerational activities are fraught with difficulty, due to the potential for infection of more vulnerable at-risk groups. To avoid loneliness and isolation, could this be the perfect moment for the older generation to fully embrace technology?
SB: Because of COVID-19 many activities planned for Intergenerational Week have been cancelled. It’s forced organisations to think more creatively about how older and younger people can communicate and share during these difficult times. Some organisations are going online to share videos, photos and messages, poems and art, exercise and music as well as letters to keep in touch. Others are using teleconferencing for book clubs, for examples.
It’s also an opportunity to increase neighbourliness. How can we help those who can’t get out and about? Perhaps with shopping and other household tasks? Or chatting on the phone (remember when we used to talk with people on the phone?!) as well as online? And finding out about local sources of help with food and finances. All the while making our communities stronger as we get through this crisis together.
Insequa: Different generations living together seems to be a growing theme and there are lots of different models. Which is the most successful?
SB: There are lots of different models of intergenerational housing. Some are about making the best use of existing housing. Homeshare for example matches older people with a spare room or two with younger people who need an affordable home, in return for companionship and support. Sheltered housing schemes where demand is low and flats are empty could house other groups such as young mothers, students etc. And extra care schemes could provide independent living for adults of all ages with additional needs.
Other schemes are brand new developments where housing, facilities and shared spaces for people of all ages are designed to promote intergenerational interaction and neighbourliness from the outset. The Intergenerational Housing Network which we coordinate is growing all the time.
Insequa:Young children and older people in care homes is a winning combination as we saw in Channel 4s Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds. What do you see as the next development in intergenerational living?
SB: Every nursery and every care home could link with others. And every older people’s housing and care scheme. More and more primary and secondary schools are getting involved. Younger people are setting up some innovative community schemes bringing generations together locally. The key to all these interactions is continuity and regular contact so that meaningful relationships build over time.
In the longer run, we’d like to see intergenerational interaction become part and parcel of everyday life in every community. And every government policy nationally and locally should be assessed for its intergenerational impact.
There are lots of ideas in our latest report, Together in the 2020s, about how we could make Britain a country for all ages by 2030.
Insequa: Loneliness is a terrible problem in the UK – does the intergenerational approach offer any answers?
When as a country we get beyond ‘social distancing’, I hope we can re-focus on ‘social connecting’.
SB: Loneliness affects people of all ages, and every generation can help each other reduce loneliness. We are social animals and want meaningful connections and relationships in our lives. Intergenerational activities can help offer and develop such interaction. When as a country we get beyond ‘social distancing’, I hope we can re-focus on ‘social connecting.’
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