22 December 2017
Bridging the generation gap in Bristol
Extra Care Housing residents in Bristol are enjoying connecting with a group of local schoolchildren, who are helping them get to grips with new technology and also to extend their creativity in art and music.
Initiated by Bristol charity Alive!, the activities encourage the sharing of stories, memories and creative ideas between the young and old. Good friendships have come about as a result, generating positive feedback from participants, Hanover staff and the children's teachers.
Connecting to create
99-year-old resident Lily (pictured above) passed away a year ago. However, her final years were made happier and more fulfilled thanks to taking part in art sessions with the children. In these sessions, each older participant is paired with a young helper, providing one-to-one stimulus and interaction. The pair then enjoy painting and studying great art together, while also writing about their interests and experiences. The themed sessions can be tailored to the interests and life stories of participants, with music and poetry often being used to inspire creativity. A recent report by leading arts and health consultancy Willis Newson observes that these activities provide a lift to the physical and mental energy levels of the older people who take part.
Hanover’s Bristol estate was one of only three care settings chosen to be part of a relatively new project called Parlours of Wonder, led by researchers at Bristol University. The project team designs an appealing community space within the care setting, to enable older people to interact with items which evoke life memories. These memories can then be shared with others by means of the Story Creator app installed on an iPad. Using this tool, pages containing photos, text and audio clips can be created, which can then be transposed into a keepsake book. Large wall collages have also been produced, provoking much discussion between the age groups.
The tech-savvy children assist the older participants in using the app, touchscreen and accessing the internet, giving them the opportunity to learn useful skills that will benefit them in day-to-day life. Typically Google Earth and Street View can be used to reconnect the older people with important places from their past. YouTube and Wikipedia might also be used to research nostalgic music, films and interests.
A wealth of benefits
Residents’ spirits are lifted following a visit from the children, improving their happiness, mental health and wellbeing. The children also benefit by growing in confidence, self-esteem and feeling a sense of pride in helping others. Learning about past history, culture and values from older people has been proven to aid their development, particularly if they have no older family members to relate to.
Some residents have dementia and severe physical disabilities, which can increase feelings of isolation and separation from the outside community. These inspired cross-generational projects help break down barriers and improve connectivity and understanding for all who take part.
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