How intergenerational projects are bringing people together across Portsmouth
Young and old are being brought together in a number of projects aiming to bridge the generation gap.BELINDA DICKINS reports.
Friendships are being built between people of all ages as the number of intergenerational projects has grown massively in the area in recent years.
Often inspired by the popular Channel 4 programme Old People's Home for 4 Year Olds, nurseries, schools and care homes have been linking up to take part in regular activities and build bonds together.
Projects linking children with older people can take many forms - and a Waterlooville play centre has introduced a whole new type of intergenerational scheme.
Cubano Beach Club is a venue probably best known for its children’s birthday parties, but is offering something slightly different by opening a day centre and inviting people over 65 to volunteer with the children.
Having recently moved from their Fratton venue where they spent five years, owners Reinier and Kelly Limonte opened their new social enterprise centre in Waterlooville next-door to elderly care centre Sunshine Day Centre in Aston Road.
Reinier, known as Rey, is from Cuba, where the whole family lives together throughout their life, so loved the idea of bringing together children and retired people in a safe environment.
When it launches in March, the scheme will see children enjoying supervised soft play at the centre, with the option to mix with a range of older volunteers who will teach skills and help with activities.
First to sign up was 70-year-old Paul Aston, who will be known as Grampa Chips and volunteer one morning a week.
A keen carpenter, Paul helped build a lot of the recycled wood items decorating the eco-friendly centre, and will set up a woodwork area where children can paint wooden bowls and shapes.
The grandad-of-four said: ‘It’s just so unique. I had my career doing a lot of things, but the last job I ever did was working with adults with learning disabilities.
‘I just want to see everybody included, if you can improve anybody’s quality of life that’ll do for me.’
The DBS-checked volunteers will interact with the children, serve coffee and snacks to the parents from the cafe area, host craft sessions, woodwork, reading, or whatever interests them.
Father-of-two Rey said: ‘We aim to have a really busy hub where parents can grab a coffee, kids can play in our wonderful venue, and local elderly residents can come for free to volunteer their time to play with the children.’
He added: ‘It’s a great way to conquer loneliness, get old hobbies back into their lives, and the young toddlers absolutely love it! As do parents that get to come to a relaxed and safe environment for a play date, coffee and feel they are doing something for their community at the same time.’
A recruitment drive for the volunteers is set to take place tomorrow , for potential volunteers to go along and find out more about the scheme from 10am to 11.30am.
Children from Morelands Nursery in Crookhorn have been taking part in a project brightening the lives of older people living independently in the nearby Elsie Fudge House.
Every three weeks, a group of eight children walk up the road from nursery to visit their new friends, who they first met in September 2019.
Sam Martin, nursery manager, started the project because the team wanted to bring new experiences to the children, and has watched the relationships flourish.
‘We want them to be good, kind citizens and part of that is looking after other people,’ said Sam.
‘They’re the ones that are driving that connection and wanting to see them which is lovely.
‘They have all loved going and building those relationships.’
Activities have included clay modelling, litter picking, reading stories, talking about animals that visit the residents, as well as learning about how people recycle and how to be more kind to the planet.
At Christmas, the residents decided to throw a festive party for their small visitors, setting up a Santa’s grotto with many dressing up as elves to bring some joy to the children.
Resident Martin Phillips moved into Elsie Fudge House six years ago, and has helped to organise a lot of the activities.
The 64-year-old said: ‘We love it, they’re magical. Residents just love it, it’s just to see their happy faces and the things they come out with - it’s infectious. It makes you laugh and smile, it lifts you.
‘They look forward to them coming so much. They come running in and give everyone a hug.
‘It just makes everyone here smile and we’re talking about it all week when they’re gone.’
The youngest resident at Elsie Fudge is 55, with the oldest aged 97, and the residents have taken control over what they get up to in their retirement, even setting up their own darts team.
Martin said: ‘Nothing’s impossible, it doesn’t matter what age you are.
‘It gives me a purpose, I’ve got a new lease of life. When I see them happy, the rest of the residents, it gives me a lift.’
Sam is keen for the project to continue as both the children and residents seem to be enjoying it so much.
She added: ‘They run up and give them big cuddles, I can’t put into words just how lovely it is.
‘It’s definitely been an amazing project because of those connections and relationships that we’re forming with our community. Hopefully that respect level will continue to grow for them all.’
Morelands Nursery’s sister site Growing Places Cowplain also wants to build links with elderly people in the community, and one way in which they did this was taking part in an act of kindness in December to hand out small Christmas presents to shoppers.
CHARITIES for older people across the city are encouraging these projects because of the benefits to both generations.
Age UK Portsmouth is currently working in partnership with Boogie Mites Community Projects Portsmouth by offering intergenerational music sessions to parents and grandparents at a small charge.
The older people that regularly attend the Bradbury Centre in Kingston Road are given the opportunity to join in the fun with the children that attend.
Rory Massey, chief operating officer of Age UK Portsmouth, said: ‘We at Age UK Portsmouth are thrilled with the growth in intergenerational projects in the city. They are a great way to promote the active ageing and wellbeing of older people, bring groups of people from different generations together in an enjoyable and uplifting setting and they allow opportunity for the dissemination of generational knowledge and skills from both young and old increasing understanding between generations.
‘These projects bring people together in purposeful, mutually beneficial activities which promote greater understanding and respect between generations and contributes to building more cohesive communities. They combat loneliness in the older generation and increase participation in community activities and social networks.’
If anyone wants to join in with the music sessions, contact (023) 9286 2121 or email [email protected] for more information.