Research carried out by the United Nations, shows that by the year 2050 the number of people over the age of 60 is projected to rise by 50% in developed countries and triple in developing countries, with global life expectancy increasing to 75 years. Added to this, families are becoming smaller with young people postponing marriage and having fewer children, the number of divorces is increasing, and several generations of the same family no longer live in the same household. The importance of creating and maintaining these relationships is crucial.
Intergenerational projects have positive benefits for everyone, no matter your age, and the wider community. Manor and Castle Development Trust identify the following ways in which these projects can have an impact:
· help different age groups relate to and value each other.
· reduce ageism, breaking down stereotypes and increasing empathy.
· enable cultural traditions and values to be shared and passed on.
· build a sense of personal and community identity while encouraging tolerance.
· older adults, including those with dementia, have been shown to have improved memory and a more positive outlook as a result of interacting with young children.
· children benefit from the unconditional attention a relationship with an older person can provide – improved confidence and communication skills are seen, vocabulary improves, an increase in academic achievement and social barriers are broken down.
The United for All Ages report, ‘The next generation: how intergenerational interaction improves life chances of children and young people’, states that bringing young and older people together can tackle issues facing the next generation – from poor health, anxiety and loneliness to educational attainment and social mobility. The report also says the intergenerational projects can boost confidence, skills and opportunities for children and young people, while changing attitudes towards ageing.
The Young Leaders Award actively encourages young people to engage with projects in their communities, many of which include working with people of different ages and from different social and economic backgrounds. Before the pandemic, some of these projects involved working directly with residential care homes or specific community projects which focus on the elderly, whilst others focused on family and the support that can be offered there. But, with the arrival of Covid, things were all about to change! Our Young Leaders proved that they are very determined and passionate and social distancing was not going to stop them being involved in intergenerational projects!
Some of our KS2 Young Leaders decided to create ‘Bags of Happiness’ which were sent to the residents of a local care home. The children took care to create each individual bag and even though they would never meet the person or know who they were, they wanted to spend time creating something special for them. The residents were touched by the anonymous act of kindness and the staff reported many smiles from the residents when they received their bag.
"I enjoyed decorating my bag of happiness because I knew it would cheer up the elderly."
KS2 Young Leader
Our youngest Young Leaders in KS1 went out of their way to ensure members of the elderly community were not forgotten. The decided to spread smiles and positivity electronically and were able to share their pictures and messages with several care homes in the area, rather than just one which would have been the case if they had been able to visit in person.
“The response from the home was tremendous, they were overwhelmed and it was clear that the residents had been very touched by the children's kindness”
“Helping the community makes me warm and fuzzy!”
KS1 Young Leader
Other projects involved a week of activities, called the ‘Kindness Offensive’, which included delivering hampers to elderly residents and lots of our Young Leaders, of all ages, sent cards and messages of support as well as cooking meals, tidying gardens and doing the weekly shopping for their elderly neighbours.
To find out more about the Youth Trust and how the Young Leaders Award can help break down intergenerational barriers, click here.