Welsh Government Undertakes Review

The Welsh Government’s programme for government, Taking Wales Forward 2016 – 2021, sets out a commitment to ‘develop a nationwide and cross-government strategy to address loneliness and isolation’1 as part of its strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of the population. In support of this commitment the Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee undertook an inquiry into loneliness and isolation, the results of which were published in December 2017. As part of its inquiry, the Committee received evidence on the benefits of intergenerational contact between children and older people and concluded that ‘the evidence we heard on intergenerational contact … can sometimes be more beneficial than contact with one’s own age group’2

The report recommended ‘that the Welsh Government undertakes an evaluation to assess the impact of intergenerational contact on people experiencing loneliness and isolation. If the evaluation highlights benefits of such contact, the Welsh Government should ensure best practice in this area is rolled out across Wales.

Aims and objectives of review
OB3 Research, in conjunction with the Centre for Loneliness Studies, University of Sheffield, was appointed by the Welsh Government to undertake a review of key mechanisms in intergenerational practices, and their effectiveness at reducing loneliness and social isolation.

The review aimed to:

  • Identify the key mechanisms (barriers and enablers) by reviewing available literature on intergenerational practice (IP) that focuses on tackling loneliness and social isolation and interview key respondents who are involved with intergenerational programmes
  • Inform policy development by illustrating key enablers and barriers, using case studies of intergenerational programmes in Wales and/or elsewhere in the UK
  • Identify whether there are subgroups within society for whom intergenerational programmes are particularly effective and ineffective in reducing their loneliness and social isolation.

The review was also tasked to offer recommendations:

  • On practical lessons that could feed into future guidance on setting up intergenerational projects aimed at reducing loneliness and social isolation
  • For policy that focus on enablers of intergenerational programmes that are successful at reducing loneliness and social isolation as well as key barriers that prevent the reduction of social isolation and loneliness in such programmes.

Key findings

  • IP can be considered as a continuum of contact between different generations.
  • IP varies from low-level interventions such as one-off events through to high-level interventions where activities are embedded into community settings.
  • There is a relationship between social isolation and loneliness, and various other factors associated with well-being. The case studies indicate that IP does more to reduce social isolation (lack of social connections) than loneliness (perceived isolation).
  • Various enablers are identified that contribute to effective operation of IP (e.g. a visionary leader, a focused perspective). Barriers that hinder action were also identified (e.g. time, planning, logistics).
  • IP may offer many benefits for people across different ages. Such practices should not focus purely on the benefits for older people. Rather IP should focus on, communities as a whole and people of all ages.
  • There were different benefits identified between three main age groups (children/young people, adults and older people). For instance, levels of loneliness/social isolation were reduced. Health (mental and physical) and well-being was improved in adults and older people. Whereas children and young people reported improved confidence and knowledge.
  • Some subgroups are more likely to participate in IP than others (women compared to men). While some intergenerational practices target specific audiences, some subgroups are harder to engage in such activities.
  • There were benefits of IP at the community level such as improved connections and an increased sense of belonging.https://gov.wales/key-mechanisms-intergenerational-practices-effectiveness-reducing-loneliness-social-isolation

The review concluded that intergenerational practice can be considered as a continuum of contact between different generations which varies from low level interventions such as raising awareness of ageing issues through to high level intervention where intergenerational activities are embedded into community settings as a natural part of its social structure.

Read the full report here.

Summary report


30th May 2019