What is intergenerational week?
Intergenerational week is a global campaign, running from the 25th of April-1st of May, which aims to connect people of all ages and to combat issues such as social isolation and exclusion. The campaign celebrates good practices, events and opportunities whereby intergenerational friendships can be formed and people from all walks of life can connect with each other.
The Beth Johnson Foundation (2009) proposes that:
‘Intergenerational practice aims to bring people together in purposeful, mutually beneficial activities which promote greater understanding and respect between generations and contribute to building more cohesive communities. Intergenerational practice is inclusive, building on the positive resources that the younger and older have to offer each other and those around them.’
Why is intergenerational practice important?
Some of the benefits of intergenerational practice include:
- Community building post-pandemic
- Reduce isolation and loneliness
- Improve health and mental wellbeing
- Challenges ageist assumptions
- Enhances learning and skill sharing
Recent studies suggest that intergenerational relationships are crucial to our health and wellbeing, benefitting both younger and older citizens. In fact, the Harvard Study of Adult Development (2022) suggests that relationships are paramount to our wellbeing, particularly as we age. This study began tracking more than 700 men in 1938 and continues to this day. George Valliant, one of the psychiatrists that led this study for three decades, found that those who had intergenerational relationships were three times more likely to be happy as those who did not.
Research has proven that intergenerational exchange is mutually beneficial to both older and younger generations and can play a key role in tackling the loneliness pandemic. According to AgeUK, 1.4 million older people in the UK are often lonely and it is expected that by 2025, more than 2 million people aged 50+ will often feel lonely if no actions are taken to address this matter.
Issues of loneliness and social isolation have been exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic and intergenerational practice is a key way in which we can combat such problems. Loneliness is a grave societal problem and has devastating repercussions on people’s mental and physical well being (research has found that it has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!)
As aforementioned, intergenerational practice can reduce ageism within our society, contributing to improving the health and wellbeing of older people in our communities. Research from Age UK has concluded that there are fewer opportunities for the older generation to engage in community life in meaningful ways. The lack of opportunities can often be explained by the existence of ageist perceptions about the older generation and their role within society. Intergenerational practice can combat ageism through positive communication exchange and forming positive relationships.
How can you get involved?
Visit Global Intergenerational Week for more information and ideas on how to get involved!
Some ideas of ways to get involved include taking part in:
- Coffee mornings- invite an older neighbour, friend or family member to your house for coffee, cake and a chat.
- Start an intergenerational book club. Recommend a book you love to your grandchildren (or younger people in your life) and you read one of their favourite books. Then share your thoughts and discuss!
- Create opportunities for children to interview their older relatives about their lives and stories.
- Pass on a skill- teach a skill across the generations. Ask an older relative to teach you an activity that they enjoy (knitting, crocheting, baking etc) and teach them a new skill in return.
- Develop an intergenerational quiz. Test each other on the iconic popular culture moments of your generations!
The Mindful Ageing consortium are currently developing the Mindful Ageing BootCamps – a series of three workshops which focus on positive psychology, health and wellbeing and combating loneliness for anybody over 50. To find out more about the Boot Camps in the UK, please visit: https://mindfulageingbootcamps.eventbrite.co.uk
If you would like to be informed of upcoming opportunities and events regarding the Mindful Ageing project, visit: https://www.facebook.com/MindfulAgeingEU/