Test + Learn

Question: Could art workshops support the building of intergenerational relationships?

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Problem: An increasing body of research highlights the positive impact of intergenerational relationships on both children and aging adults and in particular, the benefits to children experiencing disadvantage. Consequently, there are a growing number of care home and early years providers looking to develop contact. In this vein, Eureka! Nursery (based at the national children’s museum site in Halifax) have an on going relationship with a local care home which involves weekly visits between children and care home residents.

Partners: The Guild was invited by Eureka! Nursery to develop a programme that integrated arts workshops to the regular visits they undertook with their care home partner. The nursery were motivated by a profound experience during a visit when a child who was selectively mute began speaking to the older person they were ‘buddied’ with. They were inspired to develop an additional creative dimension to the visits with The Guild as key partner. The purpose of the visits were to encourage meaningful interaction and shared learning, so that in all cases visits were more than simply adults watching children at play.

Approach: The Guild engaged a textiles artist to facilitate weekly visits, which alternated between the care home and nursery sites. The group comprised adults over 80 and children under 5 who took part in drawing, printing, weaving and silk painting and collaboratively developed a large fabric hanging. The group then met for a celebration event, which included friends and family, where the final artwork was revealed.

Findings: The adults who had taken part in the project reported strong positive emotions and described a positive impact on their mental wellbeing, and often related this to the shared learning component of the experience. Recurring themes of ‘sharing’ and ‘doing’ were highlighted in the evaluation with the children, which was echoed by nursery staff. Cases of individual impact were also highlighted among adults who expressed feeling less isolated and lonely through developing new friendships. Overall, this pilot suggests that the role of collaborative learning in intergenerational settings is a key component in developing meaningful relationships, and that the impact of this on wellbeing and communication warrants further exploration.

Photo Credits: Heather Magner, Northern Exposure Photography www.northern-exposure.co.uk