Interaction between older and younger generations is undoubtedly therapeutic and beneficial to both, and Intergenerational care that brings the old and young together has been evidenced and experimented by many across the care industry here and overseas.
A television programme filmed in Wales took young children to spend time with elderly users of a day centre to assess the benefits to both. The one-off visit to a residential home or community centre is not an unusual episode, and Plant Parciau nursery in Caemarfon to this one step further, taking part in an experience which was aired on Welsh Television. It aimed to investigate the potential by bringing young children and the elderly together to share daycare on a regular basis.
Six children aged three and under travelled to the Daycare centre for three consecutive days, taking part in activities which were overseen by academics from Bangor University. The documentary focused on the benefits to the older generation that came from the joint activities. Hat-making, cake decorating, and other activities were introduced with some incredibly rewards and positive outcomes on both sides.
The universities child psychologist Dr. Nia Williams who specialises in child psychology recorded benefits in language development for the children, with one child who had an understanding of Welsh encouraged to start singing in Welsh with the outcome of the child starting to produce Welsh language words.
The children reacted very well to mixing with elderly participants, especially the men because of how men specifically play with the children to encourage a form of independence. With the all-female staff at the nursery, male attention proved very interesting and different for the children, with a noticeable increase in the children’s confidence and interaction. It created a unique bond, which would also help children to appreciate and respect the elderly, rather than seeing them as invisible.
Overseas step towards care integration!
Singapore is a leading advocate of old and young interaction with childcare and senior centres being co-located across ten new projects to create that intergenerational bond. This $3 billion project has been introduced to help Singaporeans age confidently and lead active lives. The government is also encouraging existing elderly care operators to introduce innovative programming that allows for the young and old in the Singapore culture to interact and build intergenerational bonds.
The US also has a number of similar initiatives in place which encourage co-location of childcare and elderly services. The Intergenerational Learning Centre in Seattle is home to over 400 elderly residents with a nursery for children aged from six weeks to five years. Children are taken to visit the residents, and residents can visit the nursery, both encouraged to take part in a joint programme of activities.
In the UK, the group ‘United for All Ages’ is calling for a similar approach, encouraging more care homes to invite children in from the local nursery or primary school. The co-founder of the organization recognises that this activity is far too often a one-off visit and believes this should be encouraged as a regular occurrence, with co-location being considered for future care facilities being built in the UK. It presents a multigenerational opportunity for all generations including visiting parents and families to mix in a unique environment, from the youngest to the oldest of residents at the care facility.
Could the future be co-location care for both generations in the UK?
The UK may be a little behind with encouraging intergenerational care, but there are now steps and a great deal of interest from the care sector to explore further.
Social interaction is one obvious benefit, but a growing attitude towards co-locational facilities can also have financial and logistical benefits. The Hadland Care Group who run both day nurseries and elderly care facilities state that combining administrative facilities is an obvious financial benefit, and although they currently do not co-locate facilities, they see benefits in doing so in the future.
There is of course an important aspect of monitoring carefully to ensure there is no risk to either sides of the care spectrum, and the need for good staff supervision being essential. However, children visiting regularly to sing Christmas Carol’s, share events and seasonal celebrations, eating together, and enjoying visiting pets to the care home are all hugely beneficial to both young and old.
With the airing of the Welsh television documentary, and the keen interest in the industry to look at the future of care, introducing co-locational care facilities, and nurturing intergenerational bonding between children and the elderly residents, we believe over the next 20 years we will see more and more care providers taking this important and proactive step. Undoubtedly, the interaction is hugely positive for both generations, and the next step is to create and build more and more co-locational care facilities.