Walking into a care setting for older adults, you might be surprised to see children’s tricycles in the gardens and toys in the lounges. But, thanks to intergenerational care and learning programmes, it’s now a sight that is becoming much more frequent.
As the UK catches up with The Netherlands, who have long been reaping the benefits of intergenerational programmes and shared sites, interest is now growing at a remarkable rate.
What are intergenerational programmes in care?
Ongoing intergenerational programmes that are purpose built to bring different generations together are now being introduced in care homes throughout the UK at a fast pace, enabling residents to share experiences that are not only thoroughly enjoyable, but proven to be extremely beneﬁcial. These programmes, often based within care home living arrangements, are environments that can see various age groups interact through planned intergenerational activities.
For example, care homes and centres within the retirement community are inviting local children in for regular singing and music sessions, sports days and arts and crafts workshops. Taking this one step further, many are also incorporating on-site childcare, including nurseries and – in some cases – even providing housing for grandparents raising grandchildren. These shared sites provide a fun and positive environment where children and older adults can learn and interact in shared space.
Alleviating staff shortages
Some care settings focus on reducing staffing shortages by offering on-site childcare, including nurseries and pre and after school programmes. In addition to offering all the benefits of intergenerational activities and programmes, there is the added employee benefit, and many of these programmes can – and do – have reduced costs significantly through the pooling of resources.
Intergenerational shared sites and activities have proven benefits. Older adults who have access to these are less likely to feel isolated and lonely, and in contrast, feel more valued within their community, with a purpose, providing hope for the future. Those participating can see improved mental health, improved socialisation through regular contact with children, improved self-worth, increased independence and an improved sense of wellbeing. For older adults living with dementia, intergenerational programmes have shown lowered levels of agitation and delayed entrance into a nursing setting.
Known childhood benefits
But what about the children? Well, intergenerational programmes also benefit children. These benefits include enhanced social skills, lower levels of aggressive behaviour and improved academic performance.
There are some great ideas on how to introduce intergenerational activities into care homes – such as inviting local schools and playgroups to visit the care home to make friends with residents and participate in activities like baking, knitting, performing and rehearsing plays, Harvest festivals and Christmas carol singing. These activities can also span beyond the care home walls – for example, Barty House Nursing Home, in Maidstone, Kent, have developed community links with a local school, recently taking a trip to visit the students to help with their 1950s project (pictured). These links ensure that knowledge and experiences are passed down through the generations.
Looking to the future
In summary, children can be a rare sight for many older adults living within care settings, but – with the rapid growth of intergenerational programmes across the UK – this will soon change. It is inevitable that the increasing creativity and diversity of the care environment will prompt these programmes to become an integral component of care – an absolute must-have for resident wellbeing.