Kelli Melloy manages Riverside’s National Health & Wellbeing service which supports our customers to age healthily, remain independent and maintain physical and mental wellness.
Of all the activities our Health & Wellbeing Service organise in our Extra Care and Retirement Living schemes, intergenerational events are my favourite.
Across the country we have developed links with teachers, schools and other community groups and are keen to run these sessions wherever possible.
I have seen on numerous occasions first-hand how these sessions energise our older customers and give a sense of purpose, especially when they’re sharing their experience and skills. Activities can also prevent any sense of isolation for older people and often give tenants a real lift.
Both generations learn new skills. We are looking to maximise digital inclusion in our retirement living service by offering training so older adults can learn new technologies from the younger generation.
Intergenerational events can help younger people understand ageing and enable them to face their own more positively. And for children who don’t have grandparents or other seniors in their families, engaging with older adults can fill a social gap and offer positive role models.
It seems like a lifetime ago but back in January last year, Lander Primary school in Liverpool was linked with one of our local Retirement Living schemes – Catherine Court. Staff and tenants welcomed children and teachers with staff explaining a little about Riverside and Catherine Court. The school brought photos of their site and local area from the 1930’s and through the decades up to the present day. I remember feeling the energy in the room as this got the children talking and engaging with tenants straight away, and we realised some of the tenants went to the school and grew up locally so we discussed how it had changed. This then led to children breaking off into groups and chatting with different tenants where one hot topic included important issues like how did you contact your friends with no mobile phones!
Obviously, our customers’ safety is our top priority, so the pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions has prevented us from engaging with customers in the normal way, and we have had to think of other ways for intergenerational activities to occur while communal areas are closed. We have made regular welfare calls to all our customers and have utilised volunteers of all ages, customers have really missed the pleasure of interacting with younger visitors can make.
The vaccination programme and subsequent roadmap out of lockdown has finally given customers as well as our colleagues a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. We are already planning intergenerational activities for our customers across the country which will be put in place when it is safe to do so.
From experience, intergenerational sessions that are really popular include gardening, sessions exploring old and new toys and singalongs – we have even developed links with one local college where students visit schemes and deliver hand massages to our customers.
We can’t wait for our intergenerational sessions to come back – they make such a difference to our tenants. As human beings we need social interaction, none more so than our older more isolated customers, and the energy and joy intergenerational activities have brought always takes my breath away.
Bring on June 2021!