The Knitting Mania Project is a Voluntary Action intergenerational arts initiative, which identified the skills and knowledge of some of our older people, included knitting and craft work, and which in turn was passed onto a younger generation.
The Knitting Mania Project is a Voluntary Action intergenerational arts initiative, which matches older volunteers with a group of primary school children. The project arose from our asset-based approach to working with older people. This led us to identify the skills and knowledge of some of our older people included knitting and craft work. The older people themselves thought of it as a skill which they wanted to pass on to a younger generation.
Over six – eight weeks, older volunteers taught pupils the art of knitting, whilst building relationships between the school pupils and older volunteers within the community.
The overall project aim was to;
1) Encourage younger and older people to work together and share experiences, learn together and build relationships.
2) To promote better understanding and respect and explore solutions to dismantle the stereotype images of one generation to another.
The project volunteers (all 60+) had either been referred to the befriender project due to social isolation, or had been recruited as volunteers with the project. They felt they had something to offer but couldn’t think of a way to utilize their skills or get out independently.
Schools agreed which pupils should attend; in one school it was children who required learning support or were struggling to form relationships. This worked well as it meant they had a group of friends from the knitting group that became their gang at school. All pupils were from primary 6 or 7.
Benefits for the Community
The children and older volunteers had a great time getting to know each other; and sharing the skill of knitting was a great catalyst for conversation. In one case it led to a relationship between the school and the local sheltered housing complex, and to a further project where the children taught the residents how to use their phones and send text messages. Negative stereotypes that had existed between the older residents and the children were broken down and resulted in positive relationships between the groups.
Mr McLachlan, Headteacher at Cross Arthurlie Primary School said “Not only did our pupils become skilled knitters; there was also the opportunity to meet and build relationships with members of the older generation. This project has been a very valuable addition to the work of the school and has been a good chance for the school to have a greater impact on the community. I hope we can sustain these links in the future.”
Benefits for the Younger People
The children learnt how to knit and developed their communication skills. They formed friendships with both the older people and fellow pupils within the group.
One group knitted squares, which contributed to a blanket for Alzheimer Scotland’s attempt to break the world record (which they achieved!). Another school made squares that the volunteers then stitched into teddies for them to take home, and in a third school, squares were formed into a blanket for a project in Malawi. Learning to knit gave the children a great sense of achievement. Most pupils expressed a desire that the sessions had lasted longer, and one stated “I would love to do it again!”
The sessions took place during the schools’ ‘golden time’ in which pupils are encouraged to learn a new skill, in this respect, participation in the project was a complement to the existing curriculum.
Benefits for the Older People
The older volunteers passed on valuable skills, engaged in a positive volunteering experience and felt useful and connected to their community. They had also been involved in the project from the outset and were central to its development, using a co-production approach to community activity.
The project helped break down barriers and negative perceptions that existed between the two generations.
We conducted an evaluation in which we provided feedback forms for the older volunteers, the pupils, and the teachers, which were completed at the end of the sessions. Feedback from both pupils and the older volunteers was overwhelmingly positive; when asked to rate on a scale of 1-10 (1 being rubbish, 10 being brilliant) the children gave Knitting Mania 10/10.
Feedback from staff at the school rated the project as a positive experience and reported that; “They (the children) enjoyed the experience of learning a new skill. It helped them to form new friendships (young and old) and gave them a better understanding of the talents and skills an older person can bring”
- Pupils expressed a desire for longer sessions so that they could learn more knitting skills, but an increase in sessions could be difficult for the school to accommodate, depending on their curriculum and other commitments.
- Ensuring that we have sufficient resources (wool, needles etc) these were sourced as donations from local businesses
- One school had a large volume of interest and so Voluntary Action teamed up with Kirkton Services (a local day centre) and volunteers from both organisations delivered the project together. This worked really well as it meant more students’ could be involved and that partnership working as well as intergenerational practice was at play.
What changed as a result of the project?
Pupils learnt a valuable life skill that will hopefully stay with them, older people are engaged in their community and are passing on practical skills and negative stereotypes between generational groups have been broken down. Networks and relationships that have formed as a result of the project will hopefully sustain themselves and further promote community action.
What would be done differently?
Each school requires a different approach as numbers of pupils vary and why they are chosen to attend the project. Due to the informal nature of the project we were able to tailor the approach to different schools.
At the outset of the project at its’ pilot stage, the initiative was funded through Voluntary Action core funding. Now the project is supported as part of ongoing partnerships between VAER and the CHCP in Reshaping Care for Older People and is funded through the Change Plan.
The project resulted in an ongoing partnership between a local group and a primary school, which led to another intergenerational project called Text Mania, in which pupils from the school taught the older residents how to text over a period of 6 – 8 weeks. The project mirrored the template of the Knitting Mania project and was very well received by all participants.
Following the end of the texting project, the school had formed their own contacts and relationships with the sheltered housing complex, this resulted in pupils visiting to sing Christmas carols for the residents and further shared initiatives are expected.
In future, it is our intention that we link schools and Knitting Mania volunteers in geographical hubs which will ease transportation costs and improve accessibility for the older volunteers.
Knitting Mania fits with the East Renfrewshire Single Outcome Agreement (SOA) (5.2)
“SOA5. Older people in East Renfrewshire are valued; their voices are heard and they are supported to enjoy full and positive lives for longer.
5.2 Older people feel included and empowered to make a valuable contribution to their local communities.”
It also fits strongly with the outcomes of the capacity building “pillar” of the Change Plan programme in East Renfrewshire.
This project contributes to the Scottish National Performance Framework (NPF)
Scottish NPF Objectives
The main NPF objective that this project contributes to is:
- Healthier will enable people to live longer and healthier lives
These NPF objectives could also apply:
- Smarter will focus on improving literacy, numeracy and attainment and on raising and realising ambition for all
- Safer and Stronger aims to help local communities to flourish and become stronger, safer places to live
Scottish NPF Outcomes
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 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.
Our people are able to maintain their independence as they get older, and are able to access appropriate support when they need it: Providing high quality care and support to an ageing population is a fundamental principle of social justice and is an important hallmark of a caring and compassionate society. Collectively we need to give priority to ensuring that older people receive the care, compassion, support and dignity they need and deserve.
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.