Intergenerational Knitting Bee
Since its inception, North Argyll Carers Centre has provided face-to-face support for carers, in both one to one settings and group work. The advent of coronavirus meant that peer support groups, activities, and clubs had to be suspended. As the pandemic progressed and the promise of a return to normal got ever further away, the centre felt it was important to diversify their services. They looked to new ways of working, and moved existing groups and clubs to online delivery through platforms such as Zoom. After identifying that knitting was an area of interest, the online Knitting Bee was born.
With extended families separated through lockdown, the center saw real value in bringing young and older carers together. The young carers found it very difficult being away from friends and school, and both younger and older carers were physically cut off from their usual social groups and wider family connections.
The centre knew about the wide-ranging benefits of intergenerational work and wanted to apply these to carer support. The Knitting Bee seemed the ideal opportunity to put this into practice. Knitting had seen a revival in popularity across all generations and could also be a place where participants felt a sense of reassurance, a space for talking about their feelings and understanding that they are not alone in finding it tough coping with the new realities that the pandemic brought about.
Older carers have formed friendships with younger carers, which have extended beyond the group – older carers dropping round to visit the younger carers to pass on wool and needles. They have also seen younger carers talking to the group about their interest in working with unusual fibers such as Highland Cattle hair, and comparing notes with older carers working with wool from rare breed sheep. The centre felt that it was particularly rewarding seeing older carers mentoring the younger carers and helping them learn.
How were participants recruited?
The center advertised the new group via GWT’s website, newsletters, emails, and at their coffee morning, clubs and other activities. Young and Adult Carer Support Workers actively promote new opportunities to engage with groups and activities to the carers they support during their regular welfare calls.
A weekly Knitting Bee online session via Zoom. The sessions are facilitated by the Learning & Development Coordinator, Mairi, and Young Carer Service Coordinator, Agnes. The structure is very informal with opportunities to share news, chat, and exchange knitting tips. Part of each week’s session is to review progress and agree on future plans. Attendees help each other improve on existing knitting skills and learn new knitting techniques. The group is made up of experienced, regular knitters, those who are rediscovering knitting, and some who have just started. Linking in with ‘Teddies for Tragedies’ the group has knitted items to send to charities who send them to Asia to be distributed among traumatised young children.
Benefits for the Community
The project links the community together and tackles loneliness and isolation. There is an evident sense of self-worth and mutual appreciation displayed by both younger and older carers. Comments from the group have included: ‘It’s so lovely to have Young Carers join us, and I loved being able to help by showing them how to do things onscreen’. ‘I’m only a beginner knitter, but I’m learning stuff every week here’. By working together, younger and older carers have developed a better understanding of each other and an appreciation of the contribution that each group makes to their community. The opportunity to work creatively together has challenged preconceptions and commonly held prejudices. Intergenerational friendships create a stronger sense of community and we hope this mutual understanding will translate to the wider community through this work.
Benefits for the Younger People
The projects helps younger carers to learn new skills and introduce them to working with the older generation, realising the wealth of knowledge to be gained by working with older people. Forming new friendships with a different generation.
Benefits for the Older People
The project gives older carers a sense of worth and purpose by being able to share their skills with younger carers, teaches new skills, and builds friendships.
The project had Creative Breaks funding from Shared Care Scotland for our Time For Me project which included group activities.
The project was evaluated by regularly collecting feedback comments from the group.
h2.What would be done differently in the future?
They are looking forward to the time when meeting up in person is possible. The groups would like to be able to sit and knit together and as soon as restrictions and weather allow they will be running the group in their covered space outside.
Running activities, groups, and clubs for young and adult carers is a core part of what the centre offers. These are fundamental to providing carers with the opportunity to get respite and a break from caring, to alleviate social isolation, and to enable them to meet others, share experiences, develop friendships and extend their networks of support.
Scottish NPF Objectives
This project contributes to the Scottish National Performance Framework (NPF). It reduces social isolation, provides the reassurance and support of meeting with others in similar circumstances who understand the joys, stresses, and frustrations of being an unpaid carer and improves the health and wellbeing of carers, and enables them to sustain their caring roles.