Bridging the loneliness gap – how bringing the generations together benefits both

This week we launch the findings of our latest research with Aston and Lancaster universities into an innovative model for housing and well-being for older people in the UK. The results are compelling and provide robust data to back up what we already know, our residents are healthier, both physically and mentally, as a result of living within our retirement communities.

But how do we make this happen? If you look at the data, it tells us that ExtraCare residents are never or hardly ever lonely, levels of anxiety and depression reduce, memory improves, and physical activity increases – the full results can be viewed at extracare.org.uk/research (opens new window). We can attribute this to a host of activities and initiatives that take place in all of our retirement communities – particularly those that encourage our residents to immerse themselves in the wider community and mix with people of all ages.

Take Longbridge Village in Birmingham as an example, its volunteers and residents have successfully run a well-attended stay and play group for local mums and children since the village opened in 2017. Each Thursday morning the group meets for fun activities including arts and crafts, singing and gardening. Sharing skills between residents, young parents and their children has helped to create a strong and vibrant community within the village.

Resident volunteer Susan Adams: “Intergenerational activity is good because it makes you feel better, and younger.”

Resident Volunteer Isobel Thomas: “It makes me feel like I’ve spent my time positively and keeps my brain active as it requires me to do activities that I would not usually do.”

And how could we not mention Old People’s Home for 4 Year-Olds? Channel 4’s BAFTA nominated television series that invited ten of our Lark Hill Village residents to spend time with ten four year-olds over a twelve week period. The results of the experiment spoke for themselves with measurable positive health outcomes for the older people and additional benefits for the children with regards to confidence, speech and understanding.

Resident and star of Old People’s Home for 4 Year-Olds, Pauleen Davies: “There’s a great rapport between the two generations and I think it’s important to keep that up and encourage it. It’s good for the children and it’s good for is too.”

As a result, intergenerational activity remains hot on our agenda. We’re committed to ensuring opportunities for all of our residents to spend time with those outside of their age group and to experience the positive impact. Our upcoming village in Solihull will feature a children’s play area. Our new village in Stoke Gifford – officially opening March 20th – has an Acorns and Oaks scheme already in place and the residents last week enjoyed a visit from children at a nearby nursery for story time on World Book Day.

Through all of this, we have found that by incorporating intergenerational practice into what we do, we reinforce our communities as ageless spaces, where relationships can develop and loneliness can fade.

"By incorporating intergenerational practice into what we do, we reinforce our communities as ageless spaces, where relationships can develop and loneliness can fade."

We are running a symposia at the Housing LIN Annual Conference, ‘Homes for Our Age: An IdeasFest’, to discuss just this. This will be a panel discussion on ‘Intergenerational living: innovative housing and care models’ between stars from the Channel 4 show, ExtraCare resident Pauleen Davies and expert Dr James Brown, alongside myself and ExtraCare’s Executive Director, Marketing and Innovation, Henriette Lyttle-Breukelaar. We do hope you join us for what will be a lively conversation about the benefits of bringing the generations together and forging community relations.

For anyone unable to attend the Housing LIN Annual Conference, all the presentations will appear at: https://www.housinglin.org.uk/Events/ArchivedEvents/

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