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Encouraging young and old to interact in care settings

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j1862 (Published 18 April 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j1862
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. London

Care homes and childcare providers in the UK are taking only baby steps towards collaboration, says Stephen Burke, director of United for All Ages, an organisation that campaigns for stronger communities by bringing people of different ages together.

The organisation hosted a meeting between care homes and childcare providers earlier this month to encourage initiatives such as this one pictured at the Providence Mount St Vincent care facility in Seattle. Here, a nursery caring for more than 125 children is housed in the grounds of a home for 400 elderly adults. Five days a week young and old people come together in art, music, and storytelling activities.

Burke said that examples were given at the meeting of providers working together: a nursery is due to open on the site of a residential home in London in the autumn, and a nursery and care home separated by a hedge are planning how they can get the two groups together. But co-location was not the only way to encourage older and younger people to interact, Burke added. Intergenerational collaboration could be as simple as visits between care homes and child care centres, he said. “There are social benefits for both younger and older people, in terms of providing stimulation for older people and young people learning from older people.”

Collaboration could also lead to reduced back-office costs and improved recruitment and retention of staff, said Burke. “Staffing is a massive issue in both elderly care and child care,” he said. “Places like Australia, where they have co-located nurseries and care homes, have found that recruitment and retention have improved because [co-location] makes it a more interesting place to work,” said Burke.

A BMC Geriatrics study of an intergenerational play group involving children aged up to 4 years old, care home residents, and people with dementia found that the adults reported higher self esteem and a greater sense of connectedness to society.1

“But this is not just about bringing old and young people together,” Burke added. “It can also help break down some of the barriers about ageism. So much of our society operates in a silo, and this could help break that down.”

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