Befriending Caithness intergenerational link


Befriending Caithness delivered an intergenerational pilot, bringing Bignold ward at Caithness General Hospital together with Wick High School pupils in 2016. Following very positive feedback that showed the benefit for both younger and older people, Befriending Caithness decided to apply for additional funding to grow the project and at the end of 2017 were able to recruit an Intergenerational Coordinator. This enabled the project to connect with more schools and care homes, including primary and secondary schools.

Befriending Caithness won the 2018 GWT recognition award for the ‘Building successful partnerships through intergenerational work’ category. They aim to tackle loneliness and isolation through their innovative project in the Highlands.


The initial pilot project started with 8 student volunteers aged 16 and 17 years and now has over 50 volunteers from the local High Schools in Caithness (Thurso & Wick) as well as a Primary School within Wick (p7’s) involved.

To recruit volunteers Befriending Caithness Coordinators visited schools to deliver a talk on befriending. Interested students were then asked to complete an application form and attend an interview. Once interviewed the students then participated in an induction/introduction training session providing further information on what was involved allowing them to decide if this project was for them.


The volunteers visit the hospital to chat to the patients forming friendships. Activities involve writing letters, crosswords, sharing stories of their lives, reading books and newspapers together, and helping them choose their menu for the day. The volunteer befrienders are able to do things outside of the hospital in order to help patients, for example, one patient was anxious that she had not been to her husband’s grave and the two volunteer befrienders went to the grave and laid flowers. With this, they were then able to reassure the patient and reduce anxiety.

Within care homes, the volunteers are helping staff with the activities or/and are speaking to individuals building intergenerational relationships.

Benefits for the Community

  • Feeling of loneliness are reduced
  • Feeling of trust have increased

This project ensures that there is a generation of young people who can communicate well with the older generation and also the older communicate with the younger. The community is delighted that the younger people are using their time to be with other people.

“I am delighted with the visits, especially as the Befrienders appear very interested and ask intelligent questions. The students are like young relatives, and all the other residents agree”. David Bruce, Chair of the Residents Group

Benefits for the Younger People

  • The project has enabled volunteers to have a better understanding of being nonjudgmental and being able to empathise with older people.
  • Their confidence in the future also increases after taking part in the project.
  • We have also observed that their communication, empathy, and listening skills have increased.

The project has encouraged younger people to be involved in volunteering and providing them with new experiences of working in a care home or a hospital.

Benefits for the Older People

  • Increase in self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth

This project proves that the older generation has a huge amount to offer the younger generation. The senior generation offers their experience and understanding of life and what it used to be like which invokes memories of the past and keeps alive the local history of the area.


The project was funded by Young Start – Big Lottery and Robertson Trust.


To collate feedback the Coordinator meets with the students, teachers, ward nurses and the care home staff. Students fill in Monthly Reports to the Coordinator and the Coordinator meet with the students on a regular basis.

Local Priorities

This project fits in very well within Befriending Caithness, as it also delivers a Befriending service to 40-year-olds and upwards. It helps to bring the community together and tackle loneliness too.

Scottish NPF Objectives

This project contributes to the Scottish National Performance Framework (NPF). It meets the objectives of Healthier, Safer and Stronger Scotland.

HEALTHIER – helping people to sustain and improve their health, especially in disadvantaged communities, ensuring better, local and faster access to health care.If this project was based in Scotland it would meet the healthier and fairer Scotland.

SMARTER – Expanding opportunities to succeed from nurture through to lifelong learning ensuring higher and more widely shared achievements.

SAFER and STRONGER – Helping local communities to flourish, becoming stronger, safer places to live and offering improved opportunities and a better quality of life.

This project would also contribute to the Scottish National Performance Framework (NPF).

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.

Our people are able to maintain their independence as they get older and are able to access appropriate support when they need it.

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.