The iGen project has secured National Institute of Health Research funding to begin to address global ageism concerns identified in a recent World Health Organisation report.
As the the way that we live and work has changed in the UK in recent decades, opportunities for social connection between generations have diminished. But Intergenerational practice, which brings people together in shared activities such as art, gardening, reading or music, aims to address this. These have been shown to reduce feelings of loneliness, increase feelings of connection and understanding and to provide a sense of meaning and purpose as well as to improve the functioning and quality of life of older people. The March 2021 UN report on Global Ageism, highlights the role of intergenerational interventions in addressing ageism and calls for greater investment.
The iGEN project, led by Professor Jo Thompson Coon, aims to find out more about intergenerational practice and how it could be used in our health and social care system to benefit older people. Jo said: “We have been fascinated by the energy and magic that surround intergenerational activities for many years – the iGEN project is an exciting opportunity for us to contribute to the evidence base and inform the future research agenda – being able to work with colleagues in Sheffield and with the many people we’ve met in the field of intergenerational practice is going to be a real treat!”
The research team will work closely with a team at the University of Sheffield, led by Fiona Campbell, who are embarking on a similar project. Fiona said: “COVID has had devastating effects on children and young people, disrupting their education and leaving them isolated at a stage in life when peer friendships are so important to their development. It will be wonderful to explore how intergenerational interventions might bring benefits to children and young people that perhaps can address some of the disadvantages this pandemic has brought.”
The teams, made up of researchers and those involved in commissioning, delivering and experiencing intergenerational activities, will use existing evidence to improve understanding of the role of intergenerational practice in health and social care from the perspectives of children, young people and older people. The teams will produce a visual representation of evaluated evidence using a mapping approach to produce an intuitive, visual, and interactive overview of existing evidence. The voices of those with practical experience of intergenerational activities will be at the heart of every stage of the project as the map forms the basis of discussions of areas to focus on.
Ellie Robinson-Carter, Socially Engaged Creative Practitioner and Consultant and member of the research team said: “Working across communities to ignite intergenerational connection, I am lucky enough to see first-hand how older and younger benefit from such activity. Feelings of joy, greater confidence, nurturing new and revisiting existing channels of communication, stimulating cognition and new conversations – are just a few of the benefits that are evident in the people who take part. This project is a fantastic opportunity for intergenerational activity to be captured and celebrated, and to be given a platform which provides this unique and exciting way of working more credential and power into the future”.