A new report from United for All Ages examines the benefits of intergenerational care for young people as well as the older generation. It shows how greater interaction between older and young people can help tackle crises facing children and young people and counter ageism in Britain.
While the benefits of intergenerational projects for older people are widely acknowledged and well-documented, United for All Ages is claiming that bringing young and older people together can also help tackle issues facing the next generation – from poor health, anxiety and loneliness to educational attainment and social mobility. The report also says that intergenerational projects can boost confidence, skills and opportunities for children and young people while changing attitudes towards ageing.
The next generation: how intergenerational interaction improves life chances for children and young people shows how the benefits of intergenerational care for young people can give children a good start in life, raise educational attainment, change attitudes, solve tough issues and shape the future. Examples in the report include:
With the importance of the first three years of a child’s life widely recognised, a growing number of co-located care home nurseries and links between care homes and parent and toddler groups are being set up. Meaningful play and development of communication skills are linked to the early years curriculum, with positive impacts on children’s wellbeing, language skills, social interaction and empathy.
Children involved in intergenerational projects have better reading and communications skills, are more school ready, and demonstrate more empathy.
Ageism stops many people from maximising the opportunities of the ageing society, but intergenerational projects that build relationships between young and older people change attitudes towards ageing through shared experiences and bonding across generations.
Solving tough issues
From improving health to tackling poverty, promoting social mobility to reducing crime and waste, intergenerational projects can help solve some of the issues facing the next generation.
Shaping the future
Engaging the next generation of care and childcare students in intergenerational interaction through their Activate Learning college placements in Berkshire and Oxfordshire with providers of care for older and young people is creating a lasting impact across three generations while promoting recruitment and retention for providers.
The report makes eight key recommendations to enhance the benefits of intergenerational care for young people:
1. Every nursery, childminder, parent/toddler group and children’s centre should link with a local older people’s care home or housing scheme – and vice versa.
2. Every primary and secondary school should involve and engage with older people in their community – from hosting older volunteers and services to linking with care providers.
3. Every community should explore opportunities to develop places where younger and older people can mix and share activities and experiences – creating 500 centres for all ages by 2023.
4. Every local authority should develop a strategy for building communities for all ages where meaningful mixing is part of everyday life – involving local people and providers.
5. Every children’s and young people’s charity and community organisation should look at how to solve tough issues facing the next generation through intergenerational projects.
6. Funders should support projects that promote positive relationships building trust and understanding between younger and older people – working with the media to rid Britain of ageism.
7. Investors should look outside the box of age-related silos to invest in imaginative co-located care, learning and housing schemes that bring younger and older people together.
8. Government should support and promote mixing between different generations through intergenerational care, learning and housing, explaining why it’s key to creating better services, stronger communities, a stronger Britain and an end to ageism.
Stephen Burke, Director of United for All Ages, said, 'There is no bigger challenge than creating a better future for all our children and young people. The scale of the challenge in Britain is massive as the next generation faces a crisis in childhood and beyond – from poverty to mental health, crime to family breakdown, educational attainment to work and housing. These issues can be tackled by action nationally and locally, not least by much greater intergenerational interaction between young people and older people.
'More meaningful mixing can create opportunities for children and young people – from building confidence and communication skills to getting school ready and achieving potential to networking and social mobility. Bringing older and younger people together can increase mutual understanding and tackle ageism. By starting as early as possible in children’s lives, we can change culture and attitudes for the long term.
'Research shows that there are lasting benefits of a good start in life. Given the concerns around social mobility, closing the attainment gap, improving school readiness and developing young children’s language and literacy skills, intergenerational action could and must make a much bigger contribution to this agenda.
'Every pound invested in the kind of projects included in The next generation report produces dividends across the life course of individuals and for our society as a whole. The return on relatively low levels of investment and the more fulfilled lives which result are why we need concerted support for early intervention, engaging people of all generations to help the next generation.'