Most childcare providers will be aware of moves to bring older and younger people together for mutual benefit. Many nurseries and schools now link with older people’s care homes and housing schemes. Some care homes have taken it further by sharing their site with a nursery, childminder or parent and toddler group.
This is just the start of a nationwide movement that tackles age segregation, creates stronger communities and boosts health and care for all generations. Recently United for All Ages published advice for nannies and nursery practitioners on getting an intergenerational project started, advice developed with Tinies Childcare and available at www.unitedforallages.com/news.
We like big challenges. That’s why United for All Ages has set out to improve care and housing, reduce loneliness and help develop 500 centres for all ages by 2023.
There is no bigger challenge than creating a better future for all our children and young people. The scale of the challenge is set out in our latest report as the next generation faces a crisis in childhood and beyond – from poverty to mental health, crime to family breakdown, educational attainment to work and housing.
We believe that these issues can be tackled by a wide range of action nationally and locally – not least by much greater intergenerational interaction between children and younger people and older people.
Mixing matters. More meaningful mixing can create opportunities for children and young people – from building confidence and communication skills to getting school ready and achieving potential to networking and social mobility.
Of course issues like poverty, housing and climate change need to be addressed by UK governments. But people of all ages can influence these by arguing and voting against child poverty, homelessness and global warming and being advocates for the next generation. Children growing up without many of the essentials in life are a stain on all of us and lead to division.
It’s this division which we are determined to overcome in creating a united Britain. Bringing older and younger people together can increase mutual understanding and tackle ageism. By starting as early as possible in children’s lives, we can change culture and attitudes for the long-term.
Intergenerational solidarity and relationships underpin our report, The next generation. It’s full of great examples of how older people and how intergenerational interaction can particularly help children and young people towards a better future.
The last year has seen a tremendous growth in these and other intergenerational projects and growing awareness about how they can impact on big social and economic issues.
Much of the focus has been on the benefits for older people – from tackling loneliness and isolation to improving health, care and quality of life. These are critical to all our futures and make working in care more fulfilling too. But there are big benefits for children and younger people too.
Our challenge to Britain is to maximise those benefits for all of the next generation.
Research shows that there are lasting benefits of a good start in life. From birth and parenting to childcare and early education; from school and out of school activities to college, training and university; from opportunities at work to housing and health.
Given the concerns around social mobility, closing the attainment gap, improving school readiness and developing young children’s language and literacy skills, intergenerational action could and must make a much bigger contribution to this agenda.
Every pound invested in these kind of projects produces dividends across the life course of individuals and for our society as a whole. The return on relatively low levels of investment and the more fulfilled lives which result are why we need concerted support for early intervention, engaging people of all generations to help the next generation.
That support must come from government, nationally and locally; from charities and community groups; from younger and older people’s organisations; from nannies, nurseries, schools and colleges; from older people’s housing and care schemes; from businesses and employers; and from funders and investors.
More than twenty national and local organisations demonstrate in our report how Britain could become much better for the next generation and for people of all ages. That is our challenge to every community and every childcare provider if we are to build a stronger, more united country.
Stephen Burke is director of United for All Ages