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Intergenerational practice creates ageless communities

Michael Spellman leads on intergenerational projects for The ExtraCare Charitable Trust.

Intergenerational practice can take many forms and with a little investigation you can find a host of initiatives that bring younger and older generations together. The most successful initiatives take place when relationship building is the core purpose and the benefits include reduced isolation and negative stereotype busting.

I’ve worked at The ExtraCare Charitable Trust, a registered charity since 1988 that develops large scale retirement communities in England, for the past ten years. During this time I’ve heard a lot said about retirement communities like ours.

At best, a great space for older people to live an active and independent lifestyle in an environment that enhances later life.

At worst, older people’s ghettos that segregate generations by removing older people from communities.

Intergenerational practice and its many benefits challenge the latter view considerably.

Michael Spellman

Incorporating intergenerational practice into what we do reinforces our communities as ageless spaces, environments where relationships can develop and be the agent of change to invigorate the young and old.

For older people, spending time with a younger generation can bring important recognition of their existing skills, increased motivation and a reduction of social isolation as well as improved health and well-being.

Likewise, for children and young people, intergenerational practice can enhance a sense of social responsibility, increase self-esteem and resilience, and, for some, provide access to supportive adults at difficult times.

Through fun and diverse projects intergenerational practice benefits whole communities through improved cohesion, increased social capital and creating opportunities for diverse volunteering; especially in organisations such as ours who rely on and value the contribution of our 2,300 volunteers (Local Government Association, 2012 – download the PDF).

It is because of these multifaceted gains that ExtraCare has committed to embedding intergenerational practice in each of our communities.

Currently a range of projects that bring younger and older generations together take place across ExtraCare housing schemes and retirement villages from Stay and Play at Longbridge Village Birmingham, where shared skills between residents, young parents and their children have contributed to a more vibrant community. To Nottingham where Lark Hill Village, which features in Channel 4’s Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, will continue to foster the special relationships developed through participating in the show. A programme that will undoubtedly reinforce the value of intergenerational practice and enhance the claim that a retirement community can in fact be ageless.

Intergenerational activities for preschoolers