Fostering intergenerational relationships

‘Exeter Intergenerational Project’ has been generously supported by a gift from the UPP Foundation. The project is enabling two students to spend between 10 and 12 hours per week with residents living in a local care home. Both the students and residents are already showing signs that they are reaping the benefits common in intergenerational relationships. Similar projects have resulted in reduced social isolation and loneliness, improvements in health and wellbeing, as well as providing participants meaningful social interactions and the opportunity to learn new skills and learn more about each other’s generation.

As well as spending time talking to the residents the students have been joining in a number of activities such as poetry reading, classical music appreciation, quilt making and musical quizzes. The project’s support officer, Abigail Coxon, says “It has been very interesting to observe that during a number of activities the teams that perform the best are the intergenerational teams. This highlights the importance of intergenerational relationships for social capital within the wider community.” They are planning to implement more activities before the end of the project including exercises and musical sing-a-longs.

A key outcome of this project will be greater promotion of the benefits of intergenerational relationships and building our understanding of co-living projects and how they can be successfully implemented in the UK. Dr Johanna Harris, Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter who leads the initiative, said: “This project is significant because of the potential to break down barriers between young and old and address the problems of age-segregation. Thanks to the support of the UPP Foundation, this scheme has created meaningful opportunities for students and older people to come together and engage in mutually beneficial activities, which will in turn build relationships and understanding.”

This is a pilot project leading to the establishment of a full co-living arrangement in the following academic years, the first of its kind in the UK, where students participating in the programme will receive subsidised accommodation in return for their time spent supporting the residents. Support from the UPP Foundation is making the pilot possible so that a full co-living project can be developed.