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Intergenerational approaches to care - a testing toe or eureka moment?

28 March 2018

The following article was featured in Driven by Health's Online Magazine issue 5.2.

Fans of the hit Channel 4 series Care Home for 4 Year Olds, which aired last summer, will have been equally struck by the emotional and personal messages coming out of the Christmas special edition of this series. The public adoption of both the residents of St Monica Trust, a National Care Forum member, and the young children who visited the scheme was a refreshing change to the usual negative media focus on social care.
The success of the programme has spawned a wide range of interest in the notion of ‘intergenerational’ approaches to social care, the like of which has not been seen before.

This is, of course, not to suggest that there is not already a substantial amount of intergenerational work already in play. Professor Malcolm Johnson, who featured in Care Home for 4 Year Olds has been involved in researching and promoting intergenerational work for over thirty years. One of the most inspirational outcomes of this work has been the development of the Homeshare approach, which has not only been adopted across the UK, but also across the globe. This innovative approach supports the ongoing independence of older people living within their home by connecting them up with a younger person willing to live in, and offer some additional care and support. Simple by its nature, and transformative in its impact. CHS, another NCF member, has developed a proposition to students within Cambridge, to come and live within its sheltered services in return for providing some core volunteering time with the older residents within their communities. Finally, NCF member, Nightingale Hammerson, captured the headlines through their innovative partnership with the children’s nursery, Apples and Honey. Nightingale Hammerson were able to provide some space for Apples and Honey to establish the first fully functioning nursery on a care home site. This model of co-location is very popular in other countries and Apples and Honey’s experience is being closely monitored to determine how widely this model gets adopted across the UK.

The universal response to many of these intergenerational developments is one which suggests that no one can believe it hasn’t happened before. Will this ‘no brainer’ attitude to intergenerational work mean that we will see more inspiring stories of young and old working together, sharing, and supporting both independence and interdependence? I do hope so.

We are faced with a great opportunity for projects such as this to influence the thinking of politicians and policy makers as they put their heads together to determine what social care should look like in the forthcoming green paper on older peoples’ social care. It is very important that alongside the fundamental challenges around funding, the green paper tackles the core issue of what we want and need social care of the future to look like. The government, through this consultation, has the opportunity to really get under the skin of the myriad of new models of care emerging in different parts of the sector such as these shared around intergenerational ways of working. In addition, it could stimulate the way in which technological solutions can enhance the delivery of care, support workforce effectiveness and promote independent living. However, whether they choose to test their toes in the water of change or plunge right in like Archimedes, will determine whether this green paper, unlike the thirteen that have preceded it, will give social care the eureka moment it so desperately craves.

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