Free to Be your Age


Wester Hailes Education Centre brings together school students and adults in a range of education and leisure courses. Wester Hailes Education Centre is a purpose-built Community High School which brings together school students 12-18, and also large numbers of adults engaged in a range of education and leisure courses. The project, undertaken in 2008 was funded by the Big Lottery. It involved the different age groups working together in the creation of an intergenerational song and digital photography images. This included two poster designs, photographic images for a website on the theme of challenging ageism, and the final collation, design and construction of material for the website.

This project was set up by two members of the Community Education Department within the Centre, and was a collaboration between adults and school students, undertaken outside of school hours. There were 10 adult full participants and another 6 very short term participants, and around 10 school students involved, although not always the same students. Most of these adults were of retirement age. Some adult students did not like workshops and left early in the process. Some adults got involved in preparatory workshops and some were more involved for a shorter time span or focussed on the music creation or computing.

Tutors were hired to run creative workshops in song writing, ageism awareness workshops website building and digital photography. A graphics artist put together the material and a film maker film and created the DVD.

The overall aim was to explore the concept of ageism, break down intergenerational barriers and to create a DVD resource that others could use as a stimulus for discussion about ageism.

A future project starting in June 2012 will involve a monthly performance of adult student ukulele players and school student singers/guitar players to residents of the Calders Sheltered Housing Complex.

Project Barriers

Barriers faced by the project were recruitment and availability. It was noted that by not having other examples of similar work operating elsewhere in the Centre, it was difficult to visualise the potentially rewarding results of being involved. This made it difficult to recruit participants. Participants and tutors were not free to work together during the week, except Friday afternoons, which did not suit everybody.

Benefits for the Community

Participants from both age groups felt they had come to understand more about how it was to experience life in the other’s shoes. By addressing stereotypes on ageism, barriers were reduced and age differences seemed less important, letting the groups move beyond stereotypes associated with different age groups.

Benefits for the Younger People

The younger people gained new skills in the creative medium of photography, website construction, sound recording and song writing. Breaking down the barriers lead younger people to appreciating the time spent with older people as one young participants relays:

“Everything we did was fun when we got together with older people.”

Benefits for the Older People

The older people also gained new skills in the creative medium of photography, website construction, sound recording and song writing. The workshops also helped to build confidence as one older participant explains:

“I felt quite comfortable speaking about how we feel [in our age group]”

This project contributes to the Scottish National Performance Framework (NFP):

Scottish NFP Objectives

The main NFP objective that this project contributes to is:

  • Smarter will focus on improving literacy, numeracy and attainment and on raising and realising ambition for all.

These NFP objectives could also apply:

  • Wealthier and 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.
  • Safer and Stronger aims to help local communities to flourish and become stronger, safer places to live.
  • Social Cohesion brings together people from different backgrounds and promotes development of communities that value diversity. Individuals share a sense of belonging and work together to make their area a better place.

Scottish NFP 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 have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others: Being part of a strong community gives us the support we need locally. It minimises crime, antisocial behaviour and their social and economic costs.

Free to be your age’ was highly commended in the Standard Life Achievement Awards for Children and Families.