When the greenhouse at a sheltered housing complex in Ayr was vandalised in 2000, the North Ayr Seniors Forum reckoned they could help. Talks between the warden and the head of the adjacent school set in motion a gardening project, bringing together local children and older people from the complex, to undertake joint gardening activities. Through the involvement of the Craigie Allotment Society, the project now has the use of two allotments and is working with three schools. This involves a wider group of people from the local community and significantly, the vandalism has never recurred.
The enthusiasm generated by the success of the initial project resulted in an arts project in which the school children and the older people created friezes using tiles. These are now displayed in the sheltered housing complex. The success has also led to the current project funded through Connecting Generations. This involves the local college, a well-known local poet and local musicians who have donated time and equipment with joint music, poetry and drama sessions focused on the work of Robert Burns and on the local history of Whitletts. A time capsule is being developed that will capture the activities so the experience can live on.
The wider gardening project will continue and discussions are in hand about other possibilities, such as, a Christmas concert, production of CDs or a DVD and a Christmas play. While the project capitalised on the goodwill, enthusiasm and skills of local volunteers, funding is currently being sought to enable the project to develop and expand still further.
Main intergenerational benefits
The project broke down the barriers between the age groups as those involved now know and talk to each other, and have developed very positive relationships, mutual understanding and respect. The original project has developed momentum and now includes a much wider range of younger and older people. As a result there has been an increase in positive relationships between the ages adding to improvements in community safety. For the school, the project supported its centenary by raising awareness in the wider community. The Curriculum for Excellence increased the children’s confidence and respect for others. The eco-schools objectives included environmental improvements and healthy living.
The key success factor was capitalising on what the local community had to offer, namely –
- the expertise of the poet, the musicians, the local college and the allotment society
- Homecoming Scotland 2009 and its associated poetry, drama, music themes and events
- support from the local head teacher and other professionals and volunteers experienced in community work
- support from the local Community Development Officer, who helped break down barriers, make connections with other council departments and secure the support of the Chief Executive.
- accept that not everyone will want to be involved
- ensure a few dominant individuals do not exclude others
- remember to include new arrivals and explain the project clearly
- take health and safety into account with children in an outdoor environment
- involve the participants in planning and design, and discuss together how activities will benefit all age groups.