Intergenerational Care is defined as ‘planned ongoing activities that purposefully bring together different generations in shared settings to share experiences that are mutually beneﬁcial’. This is not a new idea; the concept was thought to have originated during the 1970s in Tokyo when a nursery school and care home merged together. The idea of joint settings quickly spread through the USA, Canada and the Netherlands. More recently there has been a Channel 4 programme ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’ which has increased the awareness of the approach.
There are many recognised benefits to young children when they are able to spend quality time with older people, particularly regarding their social and emotional development, their wellbeing, communication skills and empathy.
Connecting with the elderly can also provide children with one-to-one reading opportunities which can boost their reading and vocabulary skills. Babies and young children can live miles away from their grandparents or older relatives so visiting local residents provides the opportunity for them to mix with a generation that they may have never known.
United for All Ages (UfAA) produced the report 'The Next Generation' which recommends that ‘every childminder and nursery setting should link with a local care home or housing scheme’ to maximise the benefits for the next generation and create a stronger country. Some Kent childminders are already including visits to local residential homes within their planning to enable their children to meet and interact with the elderly.
They enthusiastically talk about the effects to both the young and old and report that they ‘feel the children benefit greatly as they get to see people of all ages and backgrounds. Some of the residents use wheelchairs, some have specialist equipment, so the children get to understand that this is part of life and part of being older’.
It’s not only the children who benefit from the visits, the UfAA reports that the regular interactions help the elderly too. There are recognised improvements to their poor health, anxiety and loneliness. A childminder explains that ‘one lady cuddles dollies like they are her children and our children interact with her with no judgement or opinions; it is all lovely to see’.