Posted: 10 December 2012

Bringing together different generations makes a difference

We've been running the Greenwich intergenerational project for more than five years. What makes intergenerational work so valuable is it focuses on building positive relationships with people in their community.

While The Good Childhood Report shows that relationships are key to young people’s well-being, they often have negative relationships with adults and do not feel valued. 

We spoke with two people who have been part of our intergenerational project in Greenwich, Muriel and Anna, and created this short film to about their experience.

How we work with young and older people

We work with younger and older people separately at first to understand their hopes and fears of being involved, to hear their perceptions of one another and the activities that they’d like to do.

Many of the older people who take part have said they don’t think young people will understand them, they don’t know what they’ll learn or they feel unsafe.

We usually engage with older people that are either in residential homes in the area, part of a social club, a tenants' group, or extended family members of young people who we are working with.

We work with young people who are part of a school, youth group, or adventure playground in the area. Some young people are referred to the project by their teacher or pastoral manager, particularly if they are struggling with behaviour, conflict or social skills at school.

Before beginning intergenerational work, the young people who take part often struggle at school, don’t feel they have anything to offer, think that the older generation won’t like them.

When together, we often facilitate practical sessions such as gardening, cooking, storytelling and we use ongoing themes throughout the sessions such as childhood, World War II, sharing skills and positive responses to conflict.

'We are all equal and can learn from each other'

Doreen, who is 75 years old and one of our participants, said: 'Last night I was putting out the rubbish and three of you – who I never realised lived so close - called out "Hello Doreen!" Yes this project has meant more friendliness.'

Tunisha, who is 15, said: 'Being here is the best way to end my week.'

Alan, who is 70, said: 'The most interesting thing for me about these sessions is that we are all equal and can learn from each other.'

Younger and older people have told us that this project has made them:

  • more sociable
  • more confident
  • have more friends
  • realise they have something to be proud of
  • feel valued
  • realise they have more in common than people think
  • see things differently

Improving our community

Over these past five years, this project has provided meaningful outcomes to 530 younger and older people in Greenwich so far.

From the work we’re doing we are now seeing:

  • Horn Park Primary School involve older people and the local community in lessons and their curriculum
  • Young people’s attainment improving at school
  • Older people volunteering in 4 schools – taking assemblies, lessons and mentoring
  • More involvement in local community activities from both younger and older people
  • Groups leading their own intergenerational activities, such as intergenerational trips to Hornimans Museum and Cutty Sark, and 2 after-school clubs
  • One young person and one youth worker take qualifications so they can work with older people.

In our final year of funding for this work in Greenwich, we’re now supporting groups to lead their own activities, training professionals, and helping as many people as we can to see the difference that intergenerational practice makes to young people, where they live.

Get involved

If you live in the Greenwich area, send me an email to find out about how you can get involved in our intergenerational activities.

By Lorna Jacques - Programme staff

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