This week – 23 to 29 March 2020 – is National Intergenerational Week. A week when many of us had planned activities that brought different generations together. Now, thanks to the coronavirus crisis we are having to rethink those plans.
Whilst social distancing might be keeping young and older people apart physically we can use this as an opportunity to bring us all together emotionally. Perhaps we should not use the term social distancing at all – it is the physical distancing that we need to apply to keep each other safe. Emotionally we need to cope with this physical isolation by strengthening the emotional connections – to be more sociable, though from a physical distance.
Many older people are being asked to self isolate for 12 weeks and are being supported by family, our amazing community organisations providing many activities. There are so many examples of schools writing letters, stories and poems to be delivered to older people which is uplifting at a time when we all need it!
However, let’s not forget that whilst our young people have a lot to give to the older generation, they also have a lot to learn from them too. The benefits of intergenerational connections are very much a two way street!
Older generations have faced crises before. World War Two brought curfews that meant everyone had to be off the streets beyond a set time and many will also remember food rationing. They will also remember that they survived it, learned from it and now may even have fond memories of how their families and communities coped. Maybe the younger generations could learn from our older people at this time, and recognise the resilience that they show.
It is proven that children who spend time with older people improve their language, literacy and social skills and while they are all kept away from schools for an indefinite period it is easy to see why making an intergenerational connection now would be helpful. At Time to Shine, and Leeds Older People’s Forum as a whole, we have partnerships with many community-based organisations who can help to make those connections.
It is important that we don’t just see our older people as vulnerable and in need of help – but to also see them as a valuable resource to be tapped into.
Time to Shine Programme Manager (Legacy)