Podcast Episode: Generations Working Together
Category: Social work (general)
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MD - Michelle Drumm
KS - Kate Samuels
KM - Keith Mitchell
NS - Natalie Stewart
CC - Charlotte Craig
On 8th February 2019 Michelle from Iriss had a conversation with Kate Samuels from Generations Working Together about the work it does to promote and support intergenerational practice. She also chatted to Keith Mitchell and Natalie Stewart from Glasgow’s Golden Generation and Charlotte Craig, from Impact Arts, about their intergenerational work.
KS So, I am the Communications and Policy Assistant at Generations working Together, and what I often say that my role is, is to share stories, so I share stories about intergenerational connections, intergenerational projects, I tell people why we should be having more of them as well.
MD Absolutely. Can you tell me a little bit as well about what Generations Working Together actually does?
KS So, Generations Working Together is a National charity in Scotland. We provide information, support and encourage everyone to do projects that bring together younger and older generations because we think that, by bringing generations together you are really creating a better Scotland for all of us.
MD Ok, so is that what it aims to achieve? A better Scotland for everybody?
KS Yes, so our vision, as a charity, is that all generations in Scotland will work together to create a better and fairer country for all. So, we often think that just now, in our society, there is a lot of division in terms of age, so if you are younger you tend to be around younger people, if you are older you tend to only be around older people. So, we encourage bringing the generations together, but also with that, to bring the community together as well.
MD And what does the actual work that you do involve? I know that you have your own specific job roe but, in terms of Generations working Together, what are the kinds of things that it does?
KS Well we have networks all over Scotland, so we will have a network in your area where people come together from organisations, from different groups, volunteers, and basically it’s a space for people to share any ideas, any projects. We do various things, like articles on our website, we do social media promotion of any projects, we also give support, do events, we do our own projects which include a mentoring project in Perth and Kinross where older people come in to schools to help younger children attainment. We do arts-based projects, such as Generations on Screen, which we had last year where younger and older people came together to make movies, so various things.
MD Yes, but I think there is also maybe the perception that it’s more about younger people visiting older people in care homes and things like that, and ’s more younger people giving, but it’s actually very much a 2-way thing, do you agree?
KS Yes, I think that’s a key thing that we try to promote, that often people will see younger people, you know, just helping older people, but it really needs to be a 2 way street for it to be a true intergenerational project, so a younger person would be giving something to an older person, but they would also be learning something from an older person and actually a big thing that we try and do is we try to challenge the stereotypes around age, you know, so we try to challenge that an older person can’t do something or an older person changes just because they are older. We try to get people to respect each other, I think that’s a big thing in intergeneration projects. We really have something for everybody, so if you are, you know, wanting to do some volunteering, there will be a network that you can join, if you are a political representative there are ways that you can champion intergenerational work, if you are someone who is into arts based projects there is an arts based project that you can start or join, so basically anyone can get involved in intergenerational projects in some way.
MD And all your training, all you network meetings, the days are available on your website?
KS Yes they are, and it’s good that you mentioned training, because we do offer training as well. We offer 1-day training for people to learn about intergenerational work and we also offer longer online training, which is accredited by University of Granada, so we are there as well to help people understand what intergenerational work and projects are.
MD Ok, fantastic. Thanks Kate. Keith and Natalie are here from Glasgow’s Golden Generations.
KM Yes we are.
MD Do you want to just say a little bit about what that organisation is and does?
KM Effectively Glasgow’s Golden Generation, formally known as Glasgow’s Old People’s Welfare Association, our prime remit is end social isolation and loneliness in older adults in Glasgow. To that end we have 3-day centres across Glasgow, 1 in the North/North West, 1 in the east that Natalie manages, and 1 in the South. So, we cover a fair portion of the city with our day centres. We also have a team of welfare officers and we have befrienders that go out and visit people at home and we have a charity shop in the Partick area of Glasgow. Everything we do is to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst our older community in the city. Now, I am particularly involved in the 3-day centres. We’ve worked with Generations Working Together, I think, for about 3 years or so. My colleague Lindsay Neilson introduced us to the organisation, and I believe another of my colleagues, Karen Wise, is now taking up the baton in terms of arranging things. From my point of view, I see things from the front line, so to speak, so for example, at 1 of our day centres yesterday we had pupils from Abercorn School in Glasgow visiting our service users and what I have found is that, as has been mentioned earlier, there is a big divide between older people and younger people engaging. A lot of the older people will have family, but outside their family and their grandchildren, they don’t generally meet younger people and likewise for the younger people. So, what happened yesterday was that the pupils from Abercorn came to the day centre and they participated in a number of activities with older adults and you could see that both side enjoyed what was going on and, from speaking to the teacher at Abercorn, the benefit for the pupils there, they need assisted learning, is that they are getting out into the wider community and it’s giving them a positive experience for when they leave school, before they plan ahead, and from our point of view, well as we suggested it’s binding social isolation and loneliness, so this is just another facet, it’s another string to the bow that people have managed to engage. We’ve also had nursery pupils in and, actually, what I have noticed with nursery pupils, and this is relevant to people who have a level of dementia, it’s almost tangible, how can I put it, it’s like their, people’s faces light up when they see pupils from nursery, and it’s people then who have cognitive impairment in particular who seem to benefit far more.
MD Why do you think that’s the case?
KM I don’t know. It’s the same with, we’ve had therapets in and it’s the same with people with cognitive impairment and dementia, there is something about it. Children, pets and music seem to positively benefit people with dementia and cognitive impairment. People who have still got their faculties but maybe only in isolated, the actual experience of meeting somebody else from another part of the community is positive in and of itself and it’s, like I say, it’s just something else that we do that is, you know, hugely beneficial from our point of view and as the teacher, Claire Thompson, from Abercorn, said it’s also beneficial to their pupils because it’s laying foundations for when they leave school.
MD And Natalie, are you working on the same, are you doing the same work as Keith?
NS Yes. At the moment we are in the middle of sorting out a nursery coming to visit us for a 6-week program to do Easter things, make cards and a buddying system for the elderly. I think it’s a very good idea as Keith said, the elderly just love the children, whether it’s bringing back their youth or when they were younger looked after their own kids or…
MD The Dynamics between the children and the older people must be quite interesting and it must…
KM It’s almost natural. You wouldn’t, you might not expect it because of what you ’ve said, there are stereotypes attached to each group, but in actual fact, when you bring people together it’s just a natural dynamic and a natural empathy from either side, that they just get along, you know.
MD It will probably spark some memories, will it, for people who have had experiences and from when they were children and that’s probably quite enriching as well.
KM Yeh, and actually, 1 of the ladies I spoke to yesterday, I spoke to 2 ladies with quite different takes on it. 1 of them hadn’t engaged with anybody younger, she has not got family, so she hadn’t engaged with any younger person in decades, other than anybody who has visited the centre and they were playing carpet bowls together, so it was a very enjoyable experience for her. Now, the lady who was sat right next to her was very used to young people because she had grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but again, out with that, she hadn’t any experience really of engaging with the younger generation and when you go to nursery kids you don’t even really need to organise anything. The service users and the nursery kids just gravitate naturally towards each other.
MD If you were to sum up the importance of intergenerational activity, how would you describe it?
KM I would say that, not only from our point of view, does it help reduce the social isolation and loneliness amongst older adult, but it breaks down the stereotypes surrounding each group of people that, you know, they wouldn’t have common interests, or they wouldn’t have a common bond and from our experience they certainly do.
CC So, Impact Arts is a charity and it runs groups with younger people, children, communities and older people. My job is that I run something called the Craft Cafe, which is one of the Impact Arts projects. There are a few Craft Cafes, the one that I run is in Govan, it’s been running for about 10 years and it’s a 60 plus art group, so we have, we are open 3 days a week and we have roughly about 40 to 50 people coming every week, so it’s very busy. Over the years we’ve done a number of intergenerational projects, so we have done a couple within Impact Arts itself connecting the different groups, but we’ve done ones with a nursery before, so a local nursery. We teamed up a number of nursery kids to come and partake in our art activities for an 8 weeks period. We just recently connected up with Glasgow School of Art and we had some students come in for an open day and we did some mindfulness mark making.
MD And where did you get the idea for actually doing this?
CC Well, I mean, we are aware of Generations Working Together, we’ve kind of connected a bit in the past, and it just makes sense. For our group, we are coming from a similar place of people in the room where we are trying to change stereotypes of ageing, you know, and we are trying to prevent isolation and loneliness and we want to improve people’s lifestyles and wellbeing of older people. We do that through arts and creativity but one of the natural ways of doing that is trying to connect people within their community, you know, so we don’t want to, we are always trying to find new ways to expand it and new ways to approach it and to keep the project dynamic.
MD Arts activities are they just like painting activities or is it a wide range of activities?
CC It’s a wide range, like a really is all creative work so it is mainly arts and crafts, so there is painting and sewing, but we try to do tonnes of different things, so we do things like mosaic, using sewing machines, sometimes we’ve had a singing tutor come in, we’ve recently just started to do an exercise class and so the projects and the activities we do are dynamic but it all comes pretty much under the creative umbrella. When we have worked with intergenerational groups it has kind of varied a fair bit, so sometimes it has been drawing or really messy stuff. On a couple of different projects we did it was the idea of skills sharing, so when we teamed up with the students from, when the members of the Craft Cafes teamed up with the students of Glasgow School of Art it was about learning playful ways to do observational drawing and playing with colour and stuff, but we really wanted to focus on mindfulness because a lot of what we do, without actually saying it, is about the benefits of being in the moment and how that can help your health into your wellbeing and stuff, so we were making those connections and the students, because they are at arts school, they have lots of talents and skills, but so do the members as well so it’s a case of kind of sharing that and bouncing ideas off each other.
MD And when the younger children were involved, obviously there was probably not much of a focus on mindfulness element?
CC No, I mean, it totally varies depending on the age group. Like you guys were saying about with nursery kids they are very energetic, and you have to totally change the structure and keep it a lot shorter and keep it rolling a lot. You have to put a lot more buzz and energy and you don’t, how we have done that is we have paired up a few members with a few of the different nursery kids, but you keep it quite playful and give a rough structure, but it’s just really about the interactions that they are having, that’s the key thing for that.
MD And through those interactions do you see sort of changes over time in the younger people or older people?
CC One of my favourite intergenerational projects we did was with a local primary school. The kids we on the cusp of going into high school so the teacher really wanted them to do an intergenerational project, as did I with our members, because they are entering into that age where they are going to be in high school, their lives are going to changes a lot, and she just wanted to build empathy and change stereotypes and connect the community. So, we were both kind of coming from a similar place with what we were hoping to do. That particular project we really saw a lot of benefits from, one of the really interesting things the teacher said, from the feedback, is a lot of the kids who were in the case were very energetic and some kids were quite challenging, they kind of can’t be still in a classroom, but she said when she observed them sitting with some members they calmed down and often they don’t sit down and do the work in the classroom but because of the interactions and the way it was, they actually were quite focused and so kind of, they really engaged in what they were doing and they were just a lot calmer and she said that was a really special thing to see that she didn’t actually expect. Another thing from that is that when I got feedback from the children and our members, one of the things that kept on being said was that they started to see each other as friends, so like when the kids came back week after week they would be like, awe hi so and so, and they didn’t seem to see age, they just seemed to see that person and that was really nice and it was observed all round, so I think the members were really happy that they were being called by their first name and the kids would just sit and chat and, just like they would do with their other friends who were sitting next to them, it just seemed to be very normal. So, 1 of the questions that I was thinking before I came here was, what changes do you see and what benefits do you see? The 2 things I was thinking about for children and for older people, so for a lot of the children we work with it’s that they get to be nurtured, you know, they get given a lot of 1 to 1 time and they get to be nurtured and that’s a really precious thing. Then for our older people, like, those things of having stereotypes of older people, the more you work with the people you do the more you just don’t see any of that, you just see that they are who they are but often with certain ages come health conditions and that’s the thing you really see, our older members of the Craft Cafe, they just have so much to give and it’s just about them still having a sense of purpose through the groups that they go to, and when they are doing intergenerational work one of the things they do is that they have so much to give that they can channel to a younger person, and that’s 1 of the really lovely links that can be made, and then there is also another thing of often families in this day and age, both parents have to work, or if it’s a single parent family, they can be under a lot of pressure and all families would want to give more attention to their older people of their kids but people struggle for that, so that’s kind of making a link there that some families aren’t able to do themselves, so it’s a really valuable part of intergenerational work.
KM I would echo that 100% and I think it’s really important that when generations work together they do break down stereotypes so that pre-conceived perceptions are proven not to actually be accurate, you know, because people are getting real experiences of working together. Their views are not being tailored by what they are maybe seeing in the media etc. they are being tailored by real experiences and, you know, there is a lot of stereotyping of older people in particular, I know that because I work in that field, and it certainly does break it down.
MD So, is this the kind of thing that you will continue to do ongoing then?
CC Yeh, I think we kind of try to work with different younger age groups, so obviously with the students from Glasgow School of Art, that’s kind of young people, we have worked with Aberlour which, and that’s a youth group that we are connecting to through them, we’ve worked with nursery kids and primary age, so I think it’s kind of, each time we work with a new group we just try to figure out how it works and we are always kind of learning as we go, but it has been mentioned before in the room that they are just quite naturally get together if you give them the space to do it and you give a bit of structural guidance get it up on it’s feet, like that people just kind of naturally, they will connect, you know?
MD Are you aware of any other projects across health and social care that you have maybe influenced in terms of some of this activity?
CC I think for us, at Impact Arts, the one thing we would hope for the future, but we will have to see how this shapes, is that we work with younger people, we have got younger people’s projects and older people’s projects, so there is a definite link that could be built on there, so that is something that we would hope to strengthen in the future because it’s really important.
MD Kate provides some information on the Generations Working Together annual conference, which is being held on 6th March in Glasgow.
KS So, we are holding it on 6th March from 9:30am until 4pm in Strathclyde University Technology Innovation Centre.
MD What’s the theme of the conference?
KS The conference will be about promoting and supporting intergenerational work. we’ve got a variety of speakers there and workshops, so that includes things like workshops around money, around languages and art and the impact of that, around assisting ability, intergenerational mentoring, around physical activity. So, various different things will be happening on the day. We will also have the Minister of equalities and Older People, Christina McKelvey, we will have someone from the intergenerational community campus, someone from the Fashion School in Dunbar, and the one I am really excited about, we’ve got Jackie K, who is a Scottish makar, she is coming as well.
MD Wow, so it’s a fun packed day, absolutely.
KS Yes it is.
MD And people can book a place through your website?
KS Yeh, so they can book a place on our website and find out more information about us on generationsworkingtogether.org. the cost for the conference is £65 for members and £80 for non-members.
MD Wishing you every success.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License