Intergenerational Case Study
Guest Blogger: Hillary Wadsworth
About our organisation/service users
We are a Neighbourhood Network scheme based in North Leeds. We aim to improve the quality of life for local older people and with the support of volunteers provide a range of opportunities and services to enable this.
Who are the partners involved in our intergen work
- Allerton Church of England Primary
- Allerton High School
About our intergenerational project
We work closely with Allerton Church of England primary school and have 14 volunteers going into the school weekly to listen to children read. Older volunteers have also delivered sessions to children about life in the 1950’s, wartime Britain and memories of the Coronation. One volunteer also teaches children how to knit.
We also work with Allerton High school and have delivered a number of one-off events such as Christmas parties where older and younger people have socialized together. In addition to this we have had a number of one-off cookery sessions when the different generations have come together to learn a new skill.
What resources are needed e.g. funding, staff/skills, facilities?
Staff time: we have an excellent relationship with Allerton CofE primary and a named link person who takes a lead on supporting the volunteers at the school. The school genuinely understands the benefit of the project to the children and is very committed to this.
Staff time would include: Creating the partnership between MAECare and the school. Generally supporting volunteers to ensure they are confident and enjoying the experience; Arranging and attending an induction at the school. Meetings are held quarterly basis to reconnect with volunteers and discuss future plans and feedback any issues and problems.
Older people go into the class and read with a child on a one to one basis. The activity is therefore enhancing the learning experience without organising a separate session or activity.
Transport; the school has offered to fund transport for those members whom this would be a problem.
CRB- again the school has funded this for all volunteers.
What are the benefits for: older people, the staff/organisation, children and/or young people, the local community?
“Boosted my confidence, I feel more confident and that I am wanted. The school want me there to help. I don’t feel like I am on the scrap-heap”.
“Each week before I go I am nervous; I want to do well. Afterwards I feel like I have accomplished something, I feel better. I am pleased with myself and feel that I have done well but I do feel exhausted”. (Male volunteer 66)
“I think it’s wonderful. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing how the children learn; it is different from the way I learnt when I was at school. It gives me a lot of pleasure to watch the children. It’s a treat to see them; I’d definitely recommend it to other people”. (Female volunteer 87)
“David has been amazing, got the boys on side with reading, talked to them, listened and basically very quickly built up a strong relationship… in year 5 he was so great as he talked to them about the 60’s, they were so interested. He has a lovely manner with them, a great sense of humour and has an authoritative presence. (Teacher)
“I absolutely love your members, as they add a special, vital something to our school. They are just so generous in the time that they give us, and I genuinely appreciate what you have done for us”. (Headteacher)
“Thank you for coming and teaching us about the 1960’s. Good job we had you in the class or we would have spend the day searching about 1960’s. it was fun and thank you again. We learnt fun things I didn’t no there was toilets outside. And I didn’t ne they was a song at 11.00 when all the channels shut down thank you once again.”
Many volunteers talk of feeling valued and welcomed at the school. They feel they are able to give something to others and a sense of achievement that they have skills to share. Many volunteers do not have grandchildren or their families live away and rarely see children. This can result in older people feeling disconnected from that section of society. Volunteers smile when talking about their experiences and delight in explaining how they are welcomed by a round of ‘Hello’ when they visit the school.
Children likewise may not have experience of interacting with older people. One volunteer uses a wheelchair and two pupils take pride in assisting him with getting around the school. Volunteers can be positive role models in terms of age and disability.
Volunteers enhance the learning environment and encourage children to think in a new perceptive, as highlighted in this interaction between an 87 year old volunteer reader and 5 year old child:
Child: “You are old aren’t you?”
MAECare volunteer “Yes I am, but I was once as young as you”
Feedback from staff, volunteers and parents highlights the benefits of the intergenerational approach, in terms of learning and connecting communities. This approach to learning in particular does take some staff time and commitment to develop, but the rewards for all partners are great.