Balhousie Primary School has a catchment area with high unemployment, single parent families as well as a very large proportion of children from Europe with over 50% having English as their second language. As a result of these factors, children frequently have no connection, bond or any form of communication with their grandparents or elderly as those members are not living locally.
Project Duration: 23rd November 2016—Ongoing
As a result of the factors above, children frequently have no connection, bond or any form of communication with their grandparents or elderly as those members are not living locally. With this in mind we sought to address this situation and believed that being with older generations, building firm friendships, this would have a positive impact on our learners at Balhousie. It would mean socialising and connecting with older people through direct dialogue, playing games and sharing their learning in an informal setting. Social contact and interaction with older generations is a need of Balhousie in general due to the social factors that exist within the local community. Lack of grand-parental engagement within the school was one of the leading drivers behind this project.
Benefits for the Community
The project aimed to build successful relationships between children at Balhousie Primary and residents in the local care home. The main objective was to bring the two generations together in order to have a positive influence on their health and well-being and to encourage the young generation to have a positive experience engaging with older people in an informal setting. Both young and old would take the opportunity to interact, understand and learn from each other in a nurturing environment. The intergenerational activities were purposefully planned to have a direct impact and to benefit both parties involved.
The learning outcomes involved:
- building transferable skills with improved communication
- developing responsible citizens
- recognition for the need to be empathetic
- building skills of listening and turn taking, either through play or discourse and to learn from each other about topical or relevant historical experiences from both parties.
Benefits for the Younger People
For younger people the purpose of the visits was to encourage the young learners to engage confidently with their senior ‘buddy’ and to feel comfortable talking and working alongside someone who is perhaps fragile physically and with early onset Dementia. The experience encouraged the children to be aware of the needs of their adult with whom they were working and to reinforce positive relationships between the two generations. Many of our young people lack positive adult role models and this was the perfect medium for our school in which to encourage positive reinforcement of adult responsibility and engagement. The benefits of working with the senior residents has boosted their self-esteem, confidence and communication skills as evidenced by the children being observed freely and comfortably engaging with the residents.
Benefits for the Older People
For senior participants the aim was to encourage the residents to have a ‘buddy’ that they could build a rapport with and work alongside the child and share their life experiences, their favourite childhood stories and memories as well as give them a focus away from the day to day routine of the care home. It was also to help overcome the well-known factor that leads to depression through loneliness and isolation in the elderly. It was recorded that the residents looked forward to their weekly visits from the children and the residents themselves thanked me personally for bringing them to the care home!
Nineteen children from Primary 5/6 (aged 9-11 years) visited and continue to visit on a weekly basis with children from the Nursery attending also, but on different days. This involved approximately 16 nursery children (3-5 years) and 4 members of staff in attendance. From the care home approximately 20 – 30 residents, aged 75+, many presenting with first signs of on-set Dementia were involved and continue to stay actively involved.
Children were given the opportunity to visit Balhousie Care Home and to engaged fully and whole-hardheartedly with this project in a committed and positive manner showing courtesy and utmost respect to the residents, including those with Dementia or other significant ailments.
What did we do?
Each week the class teacher discussed with the Events Organiser of the Care Home the proposed plan for the following week and how we could improve, change, vary our program accordingly to best suit the needs of both parties. We do this to ensure that all young learners are engaged and also to ensure that the residents needs are also being met.
- Singing songs, for example, in the lead up to Christmas, a selection of Christmas carols and fun action songs were performed.
It was observed that the residents would frequently join in when singing and would clap to a rhythm of well-known popular tunes.
- At Easter, the residents made Easter Bonnets with the children and an Easter Bonnet Parade ensued.
- The children have also played their recorders to the residents on occasions.
- Each week, the children bring along their reading books and story books to read to their ‘buddy’.
- A selection of games such as Snakes and Ladders, Cluedo, jigsaw puzzles, Four in a Row are played with the residents participating alongside the children. Bingo is an all-time favourite!
- Residents enjoy colouring and participating in art activities on a regular basis with the children and often share the same piece of work.
- The Nursery children enjoy entertaining the residents with their ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ and making use of parachute games where all parties are ‘hands on’.
At Christmas, the whole school, from Primary 1-7 were invited to perform excerpts from the Christmas Nativity and upper school concert. The residents enjoyed watching ‘Mary and Joseph’ and participated in well-known traditional songs. Indeed, Balhousie Primary School regularly attends at key Christian festivals to celebrate through song/poetry/stories with the residents.
These sessions have taken place on a weekly basis over the period of a term and concerts have taken place with the whole school contributing at the end of each term.
The acting Principal Teacher of the Primary 5/6 class is the facilitator of these Intergenerational gatherings.
Balhousie Care Home kindly provided refreshments for both parties. No funding has been needed.
What were the outcomes/benefits for the older people?
The benefits of this project included:
- Greater social interaction for the senior residents.
Staff observed that some residents seldom left their rooms but were more likely to attend once they were aware that the children were visiting. One significant example is a gentleman from Poland who speaks no English and was made aware of a pupil who was Polish and ensured that he attended the weekly visits and had the opportunity to interact in his native language with a little girl. The bond between the two is very evident. The impact was also evidenced by observations made by the staff at the care home where significant verbal and non-verbal interaction took place between young and old. Interaction increased and it was noted that mood changed/lightened in a positive way (as observed by the staff).
What were the outcomes/benefits for the younger people?
The children are fully engaged in the activities with their buddies and look forward to going to visit. At Christmas this was evidenced by children asking their parents if they could be escorted to the care home to deliver a present for their buddy. This happened on three occasions. The children also benefited by being able to feel comfortable in the presence of a senior adult where they feel they are relaxed enough to play and engage in natural conversation. The impact has been extremely positive and has taught the children to be empathetic and compassionate. Further benefits include increased social interaction, the ability to engage with a senior resident, have 1-1 time with an adult, where they may not necessarily receive such attention from home, and also gave them an opportunity to talk and be listened to without being interrupted.
What were the benefits for the community?
Families of the care home have been informed of the ongoing Intergenerational work that is occurring and have provided positive verbal feedback. Staff enjoy the young pupils visits as well as residents. Local Councillors have been informed of the ongoing work and will be considering this project as an outstanding model of good practice for the City of Culture bid.
In January 2017 a local television crew filmed the sessions show casing the children’s visit. A local paper has also taken photographs to highlight the work being undertaken.
Balhousie continues to strive to support the local community and is a step towards forging stronger links.
How we evaluate the project
By discussing with staff at the care home the changes they have observed from their residents it was clear that this work was beneficial in terms of mental well-being, reducing the potential feelings of isolation and loneliness as well as an opportunity for social interaction between generations. The children’s feedback was one of excitement and enthusiasm for the next visit! Further benefits to this project include helping to break down barriers between generations and preventing stereotyping. It has promoted citizenship, mutual understanding, lifelong learning for all, the increase in well-being of individuals, improved self-esteem, encouraged respect, communication and better understanding between generations, has built trust and respect for each other and finally, friendships have been made. Verbal feedback from children and residents has been positive.
What would you do differently in the future?
Balhousie Primary School will encourage other year groups of children within the school to also become involved in this work so that all children get an opportunity to forge friendships with an older generation and share the same experience as the Primary 5/ 6 class and nursery.
Perth & Kinross Council continue to promote intergenerational work through schools/ Educational services.
The work of the project supports the Governments drive to ensure Intergenerational work provides opportunities for all parties to be contributors to life in Scotland including: breaking down of barriers, improving opportunities for all, forging better links between young and old, maintaining health and well-being and offering learning opportunities.
SMARTER – Expanding opportunities to succeed from nurture through to lifelong learning ensuring higher and more widely shared achievements.
HEALTHIER – helping people to sustain and improve their health, especially in disadvantaged communities, ensuring better, local and faster access to health care.
WEALTHIER & FAIRER – will support activities that address inequalities and enhance skills, employability and job opportunities. It builds on the characteristics of solidarity, cohesion and sustainability to ensure that all of Scotland has an opportunity to flourish.
This project contributes to the Scottish National Performance Framework (NPF).
Scottish NPF Outcomes
Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens: To enable children, young people and (subsequently) adults to thrive from an early age, and make a positive contribution in the 21st century.
We live longer, healthier lives: Securing longer healthier lives for the people of Scotland will always be a top priority for governments and individuals alike. There are significant challenges which can only be addressed by everyone in Scotland working together, pursuing this goal through improving lifestyles and life circumstances, and a shared ownership of an effective NHS.
We have tackled the significant inequalities in Scottish society.