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Global Intergenerational Week: Let’s combat loneliness and isolation

Tuesday 26th April is Day 2 of Global Intergenerational Week, and today’s theme is ‘Let’s combat loneliness and isolation’.
According to Generations Working Together, organisers of Global Intergenerational Week, loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it is considered as one of our key issues as a society.
The pandemic has undoubtedly increased feelings of loneliness amongst older people. A survey conducted by Age Scotland in 2021 found that two thirds of older people living alone said that the pandemic has made them lonelier, with 10 per cent of people over 50 – an estimated 218,000 in Scotland - saying that they felt lonely most or all of the time. This figure rose to 17 per cent among those who lived alone, an increasing sector of the older population.
Intergenerational connection can be a great way to fight loneliness and isolation and has additional benefits for both the younger and older participants.  Senior Community Services  asserts that these include:
§ Children who spend time with older adults growing up are less ageist as they get older
  • It provides a perfect opportunity for young and old to learn from one another
  • It builds a stronger community
  • It gives older adults a sense of purpose, and helps younger generations have a great respect for and value of older adults
  • It helps keep stories and history alive within families and the greater community
In the UK there are a number of initiatives aimed at combating loneliness through intergenerational connections. Housing LIN dedicated one of their regular HAPPIHour webinars to the growth of Intergenerational housing developments, taking the concept of intergenerational connections to another level. Of course, in previous generations and other cultures intergenerational living is nothing new, as several generations of the same family would live together. But creating entire communities to encourage this is a new idea.
One of the speakers at this event was Sue Egersdorff, Founder of Ready Generations, who pointed out that loneliness can affect people at any age, and that psychological safety is as important for older people as it is for children. Therefore, both generations will be learning together in the nursery at the new Belong Village in Chester, through a ‘Mirrored Learning & Care Curriculum'. The curriculum includes living in harmony with nature, playfulness and discovery, unity and connectedness, autonomy, relationships at the heart of practice, and knowledgeable and nurturing educators and carers.
There are many other simple ways to connect the generations, for an hour, a day, or on a regular basis. Many care facilities connect with local schools to host joint activities, such as reading or carol singing at Christmas. In Somerset in England, a community care company ‘Candlelight Care’ organises regular events such as these to combat loneliness experienced by their clients living alone in their own homes. The events take place under the ‘Candlelight Community’ banner and involve taking groups of older people to musical performances and afternoon tea at local schools.     
Whatever form intergenerational connectivity takes, it is certain that any activity which brings older and younger people together is a positive one – bringing benefits to young and old alike, and reducing the loneliness which has increased over the past two years. 
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International Intergenerational Interdependency Inclusion Events