Revealed: Mixing with older people can boost a child’s language, reading and social skills
- United For All Ages found children benefit from one-to-one time with elderly
- In turn, older people are less likely to suffer feelings of isolation and loneliness
- The findings echo Channel 4’s experiment, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock backs idea of bringing together generations
Youngsters who regularly mix with older people have better language, reading and social skills, according to a new report.
United For All Ages (UAA), a think-tank looking at closer links between childcare providers and care homes, found that children benefited from one-to-one attention with older people, while the elderly in turn were less likely to suffer feelings of loneliness and reported an improved quality of life.
The idea of intergenerational care is not new – it began in Japan in 1976, before spreading to the US, Canada and Netherlands – but has only been recently employed in the UK.
A new report from United For All Ages has found youngsters can benefit from spending time with older people and see improvements in their language, reading and social skills
Apples and Honey Nightingale, in Wandsworth, southwest London, became the country’s first dedicated nursery and care home when it opened its doors in 2017. A further 40 similar projects have since been established.
Speaking to James Tapper for The Observer, UAA’s director Stephen Burke said the rewards of such schemes for older people’s quality of life are already well-documented, ‘but there are big benefits for children and younger people too.’
He added: ‘Our challenge to Britain is to maximise those benefits for all of the next generation. Research shows that there are lasting benefits of a good start in life.’
Writing in the report, Mixing Matters, Ali Somers of Apples and Honey Nightingale states that ‘nursery children engage in meaningful play with the residents each day’.
The scheme is reminiscent of Channel 4’s recent social experiment, Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds, in which a group of youngsters were relocated to a temporary nursery set up at Lark Hill Village, Nottingham.
Lavinia, 81, pictured with youngster Lois, took part in the recent series of Channel 4’s Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds and found the experiment gave her ‘something to get up for’
Ten pensioners ranging in age from 81 to 102 were chosen to take part, with a team of experts on hand to test how their mood, memory and mobility were impacted by regular interaction with the children.
Lavinia, 81, who was the youngest of the elderly group, said interacting with the energetic youngsters gave her ‘something to get up for in the mornings.’
Downshall Primary School in Ilford, East London, also recognises the benefits of bringing the generations together.
In late 2017, the school launched the UK’s first long-term project bringing together old and young and was unique in that its elderly participants attend school — and even lessons with reception pupils — up to three times a week.
Young and old come together at Downshall Primary School, Ilford, three times a week
Headmaster Ian Bennett writes in the report: ‘Older people with dementia and depression are taking part in joint activities with children at a primary school in east London at the first day centre of its kind in the UK.
‘The day centre brings older people and children together to benefit both generations.
‘Everyone at the school is really excited about sharing our site and activities with local older people. Together we will all benefit from sharing experiences, meals and day-to-day activities. I hope this will encourage other schools to look at how they can mix across the generations and learn and grow together.’
Last October, health secretary Matt Hancock backed the idea of opening nurseries next to NHS services, to encourage the generations to mix.
UAA has also set its sights on promoting the concept in the UK and has launched a campaign to establish 500 cross-generational housing, care home, school and nursery sites by 2023.