How care homes and nurseries are coming together for good

Intergenerational care is the practice of bringing the
young and elderly together by introducing nurseries and care homes to
one another. This new style of care is revolutionising care homes
worldwide and participants swear by the practice. We are going to
investigate the history behind intergenerational care and talk to some
of the people behind this new trend.

The history behind it

Intergenerational care is thought to have officially started in 1976, when Shimada Masaharu merged a nursery school and care home
in Tokyo with great success. This started a wave and soon more
intergenerational care facilities opened in Japan and the US, with
everyone in the know applauding the positive effects of the practice.
Today there are intergenerational care facilities in countries across
the globe, although it’s fair to say it has yet to become a mainstream
practice.

In more recent times, a big boost for the publicity of intergenerational care came from Channel 4’s show Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds. This two-part documentary documented the impact of introducing a pre-school class to a group of older people.

This is the first time that intergenerational care has been
publicised this way in the UK and a lot of watchers praised the
experiment and the show for its results. The current epidemic we are
facing with loneliness in old age is not forgotten, and a lot of viewers
liked how the show, and indeed this type of care, proposed a potential
solution to this.

As well as the viewers, the experiment had a powerful effect on the
volunteers. The children were seen to be more confident by the end and
formed connections with new friends. And the adults were happier. A
volunteer called Zena, aged 77, perfectly summed up the experience by
saying this:

“The most important thing in life is to be loved, and children have
such a pure and positive love. To find a child’s hand in yours is one of
the most moving things that can happen to you.”

The science behind it

It isn’t just word-of-mouth reviews and documentaries that are
claiming that this style of care works, many studies have now been made
and conclude the same thing: intergenerational care is good.

In 2013 a study by BMC Geriatrics
in Japan found that elderly people who were part of an
intergenerational care scheme were not only engaging with the toddlers,
but they were engaging with each other and smiling more as a result of
the children’s visits. The scheme made the residents more comfortable
with conversation, and also gave them something new to talk about.

A lot of the residents are used to limitations, many struggling with mobility and relying on things like mobility bathrooms and walking aids. As well as others with more severe physical illness.

However, when talking to CNN, Ali Somers, co-founder of Apples & Honey
intergenerational care facility, said residents: “very often forget
their own physical limitations, and they find that they are encouraged;
they stretch themselves; they will lean up out of their chair, extend a
hand, and engage in conversation.”

There are even numerous studies
that show social interaction cannot only decrease loneliness, a
prevalent issue in our older generations, but can also delay mental
decline, lower blood pressure and even reduce the risk of disease and death in elders.
The social interactions between the older generation and the youngsters
in these experiments, as well as the further interaction between care
home residents could be a simple solution to a lot of these issues.

A study on the Friendship Center,
an intergenerational care facility in New Jersey, has even seen
evidence that intergenerational care has a profound effect on the middle
generation: “Unknown to us at the start of our intergenerational
experiment was the profound impact the Friendship Center concept would
have on the middle generation- namely the parents of the centre’s
children. In fifteen years of operation, the exposure that this
‘sandwich generation’ (and younger parents too!) has had to the
residents and the facilities at Heath Village has been enlightening to
them.

“Many have become aware of the retirement community living style and
now no longer label senior housing as a ‘nursing home.’ Still, others
have remarked at how their children now seem to feel comfortable around
grandparents and great-grandparents while at social and family reunions,
a decided change brought about by the Friendship Center experience.”

As well as the science behind it, a lot of the care homes practising
intergenerational care have first-hand accounts of the effects, we
reached out to some of them for their stories.

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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