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How intergenerational care is helping to combat loneliness in old age

Monday, August 20th, 2018 | Blog

Intergenerational care is the practice of bringing the young and elderly together by introducing nurseries and care homes to one another. This style of care is revolutionising care homes worldwide and in particular, helping combat loneliness in old age. The concept of intergenerational care is thought to have begun in 1976 when a nursery school and a care home were combined in Tokyo leading to great success. Today there are intergenerational care facilities around the world.

The UK has been catching up with this idea for a long time and are now thinking more about the opportunities that can arise when combining care. It has previously been reported that around 60% of nursing home residents never receive visitors. This is not hard to believe when it’s indicated that 75% of older people in the UK feel lonely. Having children interact with the elderly in these settings is a potential solution to the problem.

There are numerous intergenerational care studies which show social interaction is improved, mental decline is delayed and even blood pressure is lowered in the older generation. For example, a study in Japan in 2013 found that the elderly who took part in the scheme engaged well with the toddlers, smiled more and interacted with each other as a result of the visits from the children. More recently, an experiment carried out on Channel 4’s ‘Old People’s Home For 4-year Olds’ showed that as well as a decline in loneliness for the elderly, the children also became more confident by the end and had gained connections with new friends.

An older lady who took part in activities at an intergenerational care facility said “you don’t think about your age when you are in the company of young children. The children brought a sense of vibrancy and fun to the centre, and I found my focus was no longer on watching time pass, but on living in the moment”.

The health benefits of easing the social isolation that residents face may also lead to savings elsewhere. If people are well stimulated and live meaningful lives, they’re going to eat well. If residents are eating well, they are at less risk of dehydration and falling, in turn lowers the risk of hospital admissions. Increased social interaction is also linked to a reduced risk of disease in elderly people. People taking part in these studies were found to have improved moods, mobility and memory after spending time with children.

The wider societal benefits of putting these two types of care together are fantastic. Rent and staff can make up to 95% of expenditure in care homes/nurseries and this can be cut when shared care is adopted. By bringing people together, you can break down some of the barriers and challenge the stereotypes of ageism and dementia.

There is potential for intergenerational care to address the sense of social isolation and loneliness that can affect elderly care home residents and is a significant part of the concept’s appeal. Hopefully over the next few years, intergenerational care will become more widespread across the country, bringing benefits for generations to come.

If you’re interested in exploring the idea of intergenerational care, visit The Intergenerational Care Project’s website.

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