The next government faces huge challenges on many fronts. Those include housing, care, health and learning as well as uniting people of all ages.
Britain is one of the most age segregated countries in the world. Many of our services and facilities are siloed by age. Voting choices are increasingly determined by age rather than class. Where people live and their housing are linked to their age. And our society is rife with ageism and loneliness.
Of course it could be different. Britain would be a much stronger country if older and younger people mixed more and shared activities and experiences. We have much in common – but only through mixing and sharing will we discover that.
With the support of the next government, much more could be done to unite the generations, transform our communities and build a stronger countryThe good news is that growing numbers of projects are bringing different generations together, particularly in the fields of housing, care, health and learning.
Much publicity has been given to schemes linking nurseries and schools with older people’s care homes, extra care schemes and sheltered housing. Regular visits are key to building relationships between young and older people so that both benefit.
We have also seen more parent and toddler groups set up specifically to visit care homes regularly, thereby benefiting three generations.
Starting relatively small and growing these projects as trust and understanding develop has been particularly successful. This has led to nurseries being co-located with care homes or childminders working from care homes, enabling intergenerational interaction every day.
But there is much more potential. Every specialist older people’s housing and care scheme could be involved in one way or another. The health and quality of life benefits for residents would make it worthwhile – let alone the impact on children’s early learning and social development. The Care Quality Commission and Ofsted have both recognised the benefits with outstanding ratings for providers.
There are many different models. Sheltered housing schemes with low demand could see empty flats let to students or young mothers – as is happening in Cambridge and Haringey. Extra care schemes could be home for adults of all ages as in Hull. Homeshare schemes enable older people to let spare rooms to younger people needing housing in return for companionship and practical support.
Now several local authorities are looking at how they create communities for all ages and ensure regeneration and housing schemes work for people of all ages.
This growth in intergenerational housing and care schemes has largely been grassroots driven. With the support of the next government, much more could be done to unite the generations, transform our communities and build a stronger country.