Mixing Matters, a new report on the benefits of intergenerational sites, says that shared sites which bring older and young people together can help tackle some of the big social ills facing Brexit Britain – from poor health and care, and loneliness to ageism and division.
Britain is one of the most age-segregated countries in the world, particularly for the oldest and youngest generations, says the report in its analysis of recent research. Age segregation has been growing in recent decades, exacerbated by trends in housing, work and community life. This has led to trust being halved between different age groups, growing loneliness amongst both young and old, and poorer physical and mental health. It has also been reflected in voting divisions between younger and older people in the 2016 EU referendum and 2017 General Election.
Mixing Matters, produced by think-tank United for All Ages, highlights the growth of shared sites in 2017 – from the first ‘care home nursery’ at Apples and Honey Nightingale in south-west London and the first eldercare day centre at a primary school in Essex, to increasing links between nurseries, parent and toddler groups and schools with older people’s housing and care schemes.
The report calls for 500 shared sites to be developed by 2022 across the UK, where activities for older and young people take place alongside each other and together.
Experience in the USA, Singapore, Japan and elsewhere in Europe shows the benefits for all generations of shared sites where old and young can mix. These include improved learning and social development for young children, better care and quality of life for older people, more opportunities for families and care staff, as well as economic benefits for providers of childcare, housing and care.
In addition to creating more shared sites like care home nurseries, Mixing Matters argues for other models of shared sites to be developed bringing young and old together:
- Opening up sheltered housing schemes to students in return for volunteering and support; expanding the Homeshare scheme where older people let spare rooms to young people in return for practical support and companionship; and creating new purpose-built intergenerational housing developments.
- Locating reception and year one classes for primary school children in care homes, as demonstrated by shared sites in the USA; and tackling stigma around ageism and dementia by school pupils visiting care homes as part of the curriculum.
- Creative options for downsizing that free-up family-sized homes for young people, including ‘downsizing in-situ’ by sub-dividing larger properties owned by older people.
- Developing more community hubs and community pubs where different generations can mix and share key community facilities that are ‘more than a pub’, supported by councils transferring assets to local communities.
- Engaging the next generation of care and childcare students in intergenerational interaction through their college placements with providers of care for older and young people, thereby creating a lasting impact across three generations while promoting recruitment and retention for the hard-pressed care workforce.
Mixing Matters features contributions from some 20 national organisations concerned about improving relations between the generations – ranging from Anchor and the Intergenerational Foundation to St Monica Trust and New Economics Foundation. They have all shared ideas and projects to bring younger and older people together through shared sites.