Too often the way we organise our lives means that different generations may have little to do with each other. Although grandparents play a huge part in children’s lives in Wales – you only have to go to any school gate or park to see that – many of us have few friendships outside our own age group.
Schooling organises children so that, in larger schools at least, friendships are mainly formed within the same year group. Fewer children play ‘out’ these days which means they don’t necessarily interact with the rest of their local community except through their parents. Loneliness is a real problem with older people who may be living a long way from family and whose own friends may have passed away.
It was therefore really encouraging to come across two projects recently where children were being given the opportunity to mix with older generations. In both cases this was being done in a way where everyone could contribute something. ‘Clwb Ni’ (Our Club) in Aberystwyth is a partnership between year 6 pupils in Ysgol Plascrugand residents of two Tai Ceredigion sheltered housing schemes. Members of Clwb Ni meet every month to play games, do craft activities and chat.
Club members had a day trip to Cardiff recently and in a meeting with myself, Sarah Rochira, the Older Person’s Commissioner and their local AM Elin Jones their enthusiasm for the club was evident. Children and Tai Ceredigion residents – some of them in their 90s – clearly had fun together. After our meeting they all went off for a pizza and everyone seemed to be enjoying their day out. I loved the way they bucked stereotypes, with some of the older people proficiently using smart-phones and some children saying how much they enjoyed playing old-fashioned games.
The same day I attended an event run by an arts organisation, WAWA, celebrating a storytelling project that brought together adults fromCardiff Institute for the Blind and pupils of Cardiff’s Ninian Park andKitchener primary schools. I heard some marvellous stories from year 5 pupils in both schools and the visually impaired adults explained how much they had enjoyed listening to and telling stories.
These projects are doing simple things but are very powerful. They create social bonds, break down stereotypes, they don’t patronise and show that everyone has something to contribute. I know that there are lots of other examples of inter-generational work around Wales. If your school doesn’t have a ‘Clwb Ni’, why not think about starting one?