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An Eden Project Field Guide to working with older people


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The UK has an ageing population. There are more people over 65 than there are people under 16.
What impact is this having on our communities? How does this affect community projects? This publications explains how older people can make a difference to your projects and how your projects can improve their lives.
This field guide was published by the Eden Project as part of its Big Lunch Extras programme. Find out more at

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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An Eden Project Field Guide to working with older people

  1. 1. 1 Working with Older People An Eden Project Field Guide to
  2. 2. Wendy Brewin Wendy manages the Creative Spaces in the Community project at the Sensory Trust, using the outdoor environment to reconnect older people with dementia and the wider community. Creative Spaces demonstrates the value of outdoor environments to bring meaningful activity and a sense of purpose into people’s lives. Wendy’s background is in community engagement and inclusive consultation. She focusses on giving people of all ages and abilities from different backgrounds and socially excluded groups the opportunity to voice their ideas and concerns in a positive and supportive environment. This book has been produced for the Big Lunch Extras programme — the Eden Project’s way of supporting and enabling people to become more active within their communities and deliver the social change they want to see. About the authors Eden Project Publications Published by Eden Project Publications. © 2015. Designed by Robin Owen and Paul Barrett. Edited by Robert Lowe, Juliet Rose, and Mike Petty.
  3. 3. Working with Older People An Eden Project Field Guide to Wendy Brewin
  4. 4. Foreword Eden is an educational charity. One of its aims is to connect people with each other and their communities. If we are serious about creating sustainable communities we need to take the time to understand and respect the experience of older people in order that we don’t lose vital knowledge that could be passed on to future generations. However, isolation and loneliness is a huge issue of our time. It is unacceptable that in every street there is someone who feels excluded. We need to break down isolation brick by brick and create opportunities that value the contribution older people can make to our society and keep them engaged in the present and thinking about the future. We have chosen to work with the Sensory Trust on this guide as they have a wealth of experience working with older people and are keen champions of the rewards that this can bring to people developing community projects on the ground. The Eden Team. 4
  5. 5. Contents Introduction 6 Why involve older people? 10 Myths and misconceptions 14 Disability heath and wellbeing 22 Involving older people 36 Intergenerational activity 46 Making the most of older people’s skills and knowledge 52 Conclusion 58 Further reading and resources 62 References 63 5
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  7. 7. Introduction 7
  8. 8. The UK has an ageing population. There are more people over 65 than there are people under 16, a trend that is likely to continue as ‘baby boomers’ reach retirement age. What impact is this having on our communities? How does this affect community projects? What role can they play? An ageing population obviously has its issues. The number of people being diagnosed with dementia is increasing, and the physical and sensory impairments that come with ageing - mobility issues, hearing loss and reduced vision – are having widespread effects as people are living longer and staying longer in their homes and their communities. The impact of an ageing population Hopefully you’re reading this field guide because you want to involve older people in your project; you may already have realised that they can have a beneficial impact on the community and enhance community activity. Having the opportunity to share their skills means more than just doing good for the community; it’s good for someone’s health and wellbeing too. Your project could provide more opportunities for older people to get out and about, meet new people, learn new skills, gain more confidence and knowledge and feel more valued in their community. 8
  9. 9. Loneliness and isolation Five per cent of the 55-64 age group, 13% of 65-74 group and 23% of the over-75s live alone and do not see or speak with someone every day. Nearly 2.5 million people over 75 live alone. 1.8 million of them are women. The over-65s are estimated to spend an average of 80% of their time at home. For the over that rises to 90%. Misconceptions and stereotypes associated with the older generation Factors that prevent older people being active in their communities and some possible solutions The benefits of involving older people in community projects Creative ideas Examples of inspiring projects This guide will cover: 9
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  11. 11. Why involve older people? Older people make up around a fifth of the population, have developed a lifetime of skills and knowledge, often have time on their hands, and are keen to do voluntary work...why not get them involved? 11
  12. 12. Older people are good for your project Talk to old people – they know things you don’t Older people know about all sorts of things; they might have practical skills such as carpentry, gardening and crafts; or know ways to make money stretch further. They can have a wealth of local knowledge about people and places. Time Many older people have spare time, something other sections of a community often don’t. But don’t assume they’re not already busy or that their time has no value. Much of the talk about our ageing population refers to the pressure on health and social services. However, older people have a considerable amount of knowledge and experience that could be of value to their community. 12
  13. 13. Your project is good for them Talk to old people – it might be their only conversation today Social isolation is an issue that affects many older people. It can feel lonely living in a street where you are the only person not out working or at school during the day. It’s not uncommon for some older people to go for two or three days without speaking to anyone. Current government priorities are to encourage people to stay at home longer, putting off the move into assisted or residential care. This increases the risk of older people becoming isolated – even the once-regular visits by the postman and milkman are becoming less frequent. Funding If you’re looking for funding for your project then showing potential funders that you’ve engaged people of all ages in the developmental stages is crucial. Not only will it help you with your funding applications, but you will reap the benefits of getting everyone involved from the beginning. So arm yourself with some facts and figures. 13
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  15. 15. Myths and misconceptions It’s easy to put people in boxes and make assumptions about what they are capable or incapable of. One thing’s for sure, older people are full of surprises. 15
  16. 16. The problem of putting people in boxes Myth: older people are grumpy The Guardian recently quoted a study that suggested that people are happiest in their younger and older years. Myth: older people are slow and frail So who is an older person? A six-year-old might say a 33-year-old is ancient, a 70-year-old might tell you old age begins at 80. Age UK support people over 60, whereas SAGA’s target audience is 50 plus (although we wouldn’t necessarily advise referring to 50-year-olds as old). For some, it’s those of retirement age and over and don’t forget the old adage: ‘You’re only as old as you feel’! As with other age groups, it’s easy to stereotype older people. They are often depicted as frail, grumpy, slow, and forgetful; the truth is those words can be used to describe people of all ages. Retired dentist Charles Eugster set a new age-related World Record in March 2015 when he ran the indoor 200m in 55.48 the age of 95. Johanna Quaas rediscovered her love of gymnastics in her 50s and still performs an amazing and energetic parallel bars routine at 89. Senior playgrounds and outdoor gyms (Hyde Park, London; Blackley Park, Manchester; Shaw Park, Hull to name a few) are popping up all over the country due to interest and high costs of indoor gyms. They are enabling older people to maintain their physical health and social interaction. The ‘Green Gym’ appeals to many older people as it combines being outdoors and doing something good for the environment with keeping fit and healthy. 16
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  18. 18. A few headline facts and figures There are now nearly 14.7 million people in the UK aged 60 and above. 4.9 million people over 65 in England take part in volunteering or civic engagement (52%). Nearly 1.4 million people over 65 in England and Wales provide unpaid care for a partner, family, or others. 3.8 million people over 65 live alone. 70% of these people are women. About 6.4 million people over 65 have some form of hearing loss. Myth: older people are forgetful A piece in the Telegraph reflected on the findings of a study in 2014 which suggested that older people aren’t necessarily forgetful, they simply know so much it takes them longer to recall things. Myth: older people are inactive Around half the people over 65 in the UK currently get involved in volunteering, for example becoming a part of a befriending service or volunteer driving or some form of civic engagement such as sitting on the Parish Council or joining a local Lions or Rotary Club. Nearly 4.9 million people aged 65 and over in England (58%) take part in volunteering or civic engagement. For older people, stereotyping in its most extreme cases can lead to ageism, a form of discrimination, with people making an assumption that an activity or event isn’t appropriate for older people simply based on their age, not on their wants, needs, or ability. The Equality Act of 2010 is the most recent piece of legislation that covers discrimination. Ageism can have an adverse effect on older people’s health and wellbeing but inclusive community projects provide the opportunity for intergenerational activities that can help dispel the myths around ageing. 18
  19. 19. The Equality Act The 2010 Equality Act brought togetherexisting discrimination legislation. The lawmakes it illegal to discriminate in relation tonine ‘protected characteristics’ including age.The other characteristics are disability, genderreassignment, marriage and civil partnership,pregnancy and maternity, race, religion andbelief, sex and sexual orientation. Remember,age is a characteristic everyone has, regardlessof gender, sexuality, cultural background,ethnicity, religious belief. Some older people are from Black, Asian,and minority ethnic (BAME) groups (8% ofpeople in England over 60 are from BAMEgroups). Some older people are lesbian, gay orbisexual (estimated to be between 600,000and 840,000). Many are grandparents (14million). The message is simply not to makeassumptions about who an older person is butto take the time to find out about older peoplein your community. 19
  20. 20. 20 Eden Walking Group Begun a decade ago, the Eden Walking Group provides local people suffering from a range of respiratory diseases with the opportunity to exercise in a safe and controlled environment. Made up predominantly of people over retirement age, the Walking Group meets every week at the Eden Project. The evidence shows that participants are not only able to manage their conditions more effectively, they have seen their health and confidence improve. The Eden Walking Group also provides a sense of camaraderie and created an informal network for people with conditions that might otherwise limit their ability to get out and enjoy themselves.
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  23. 23. As we get older poor health and disability can become more commonplace, but with a bit of thought and a positive attitude your project can help older people can be active, useful and engaged in community life. Disability, health and wellbeing 23
  24. 24. It is important to remember that age itself is not a disability. It is simply that many illnesses and impairments, physical and sensory, become more common as we get older. Disabilities and poor health can make it more difficult for some older people to remain active in their community and could mean that you need to make some changes to the way you plan or run your project. Sensory impairment for example could mean that you need to think about communication and information design. A recent Ipsos MORI survey found that 13% of people over current retirement age had a visual impairment, and about 6.4 million people over 65 have some form of hearing loss; so you should consider acoustics if your project involves a community building or if you are planning an event or meeting. Disabilities, poor health & dementia 24
  25. 25. Dementia Facts Dementia Dementia is very much in the media, often in shocking stories relating to residential care. However, there are thousands of people living with dementia at home in their community, people who may have been recently diagnosed and are in the early stages of the disease. Dementia does not discriminate; it is just as likely to affect someone who has always been an active community member as anyone else. Young-onset dementia can affect people as young as 30. With dementia on the increase it’s likely that you’ll meet people who have been diagnosed with a form of dementia at some point during your project. It affects not just those diagnosed but their families, friends, neighbours and has an impact on the wider community. Make an effort to ensure your project is dementia-friendly by helping to spread understanding and reducing stigma associated with the disease. It will enable more individuals and importantly their families and carers to remain active in their communities. There are an estimated 820,000 people living with dementia in the UK. A 2014 survey of 1,000 people with dementia found that: Less than half feel part of their community 40% have felt lonely recently Only 47% said that their carer received any help in caring for them 72% are living with another medical condition or disability as well as dementia Just over half of people say that they are living well with dementia Almost 1 in 10 only leave the house once a month. 25
  26. 26. 26 Creative Spaces Since 2009, the Creative Spaces project has been using nature-based outdoor activities to help older people living with dementia to reconnect with people and places in their communities. The project began by supporting dementia care in residential settings, demonstrating to staff and management how their gardens and activities could support care work and enable the residents to engage with others in the community. Intergenerational activities allowed young people to increase their understanding of dementia and activities in general helped community members to dispel misunderstandings associated with the disease. Creative Spaces now supports people living at home as well. Outdoor interests such as walking are combined with conversation, nature interests (not to mention tea and cake!) and animation to help give people with dementia a voice.
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  28. 28. Dementia is an ‘umbrella’ word under which sit numerous forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s is one; vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies are two more amongst many others. One thing to remember is that no two people diagnosed with dementia will experience the disease in the same way and it is possible to have more than one type of dementia, but these are the most common forms of dementia and their symptoms: Types of dementia Alzheimer’s disease Associated with memory loss and difficulties with problem-solving and language. Vascular dementia Occurs when blood is prevented from getting to the brain. People experience problems with decision-making, concentration, or following a series of steps e.g. cooking. Dementia with Lewy bodies Symptoms similar to both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease - poor attention/alertness, visual hallucinations, movement/balance problems. 28
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  30. 30. There are some common dos and don’ts which can help you work well with someone with dementia so that you both benefit from their involvement. Working with people with dementia DO: Ensure that the person or group will be supported by a carer(s), family member(s) or friend(s). Make it clear to the carer(s) that it’s really important for the individual to have as much input as they want. It’s easy for carers to slip into a leading role as they’re used to caring for someone but in your project they are taking a supporting role and allowing the individual they are caring for to make their own choices and work at a level and pace that’s comfortable for them. Spend time finding out what they would like to contribute to the project and how you can help them do that. Make them feel part of the community and that their contribution is valued. Give the person with dementia the opportunity to work with other people besides their carers. It helps increase their social connections and levels of enjoyment through meeting new people. 30
  31. 31. DON’T: Assume that because someone has dementia they can’t contribute to your project; their short-term memory may have gone but long-term skills and knowledge will be retained. Ignore the individual and talk solely to their companion. Talk with the individual – and if they have reduced verbal skills then their companion will most likely be able to tell you what they are communicating – but there’s nothing worse than feeling ignored. Put yourself in the role of carer; it is easy to do when we want to help people but unless you’re qualified as a care worker, it could lead to some difficult or uncomfortable situations. Correct a person if you believe or know that what they say isn’t true; your world-view is not necessarily theirs. 31
  32. 32. Working with older carers Nearly 1.4 million people over 65 in England and Wales provide 50 or more hours of informal, unpaid care each week. The majority of these carers are women. Family carers don’t often see themselves as carers and may have struggled or coped for years. People who, for whatever reason, are caring for a loved one at home often find it difficult to get involved in community events without care support, namely someone to come in and provide support and care whilst they go out. Or as a couple, they may want to go together and might require help with getting there and back. A sensitive approach to finding out their needs is best; a tactful offer of help rather than assuming it’s fine to whip their partner off in a wheelchair is more respectful. Providing older carers with as much information on the support that is available within your project (e.g. volunteer helpers, quiet areas for rest etc.) enables them to feel in control of their own choices. Events themselves can be disappointing if there’s no option for them to either participate in an activity together or, as if often more important for the carer, the opportunity to spend a little time involved in different activities, having conversations with other people. 32
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  34. 34. As we age, we start to face barriers that can prevent us from being active community members. Often these barriers relate to the physical and sensory impairments associated with old age. These barriers can have an impact on others in our communities, such as people with disabilities, and can be grouped. Accessibility Physical Things that can prevent older people from actually getting to an event, or activity, or attending a meeting. This could include steps to a building, a lack of accessible toilet facilities, nowhere to sit, or nowhere to park nearby. High kerbs, steps, uneven paving etc., can create problems for people using wheelchairs or walking frames. Regular and reliable public transport could be an issue for older people in your community. Many older people rely on public transport to get out and about, especially those who can’t afford to run a car, don’t have a driving licence, or have had it revoked for health reasons. This can be even more of an issue in rural areas where limited services operate. Intellectual These are things that might prevent people from finding out in the first place or being able to contribute or participate. This could include information that is hard to follow or a design which is difficult to read for someone with a visual impairment, for example. Too much information, small text or poor contrast between the background and text can put people off even trying to read it. Things which could deter people from participating in something because they feel it is somehow ‘not for them’. This could include posters and leaflets that don’t include images of older people, or a venue which is associated with a particular group, such as a youth Comfort and cultural 34
  35. 35. centre. Other people’s preconceptions about what older people can and can’t do excludes many of them from engaging actively in community life. Remember, the older generation have grown up through the post-war years; some were ‘teenagers’ in the 1950s (before that young people didn’t have their own music or fashion styles). They lived through the changing social attitudes of the ‘60s and the 3–day working week and industrial strikes of the ‘70s. They are often ready and up for anything! Economic Lack of disposable income can mean that some people can’t afford to pay for public transport or run a car. It’s well known that living on a pension can be hard. Many older people struggle to pay bills, heat their homes, buy nutritious food etc., so it stands to reason that this also has an impact on their social lives. The most successful projects are those that engage community members of all generations and backgrounds through the whole process from beginning to end. This leads to more sustainable projects. Whether you have an idea for a new project or a way of engaging them in a current project, involve older people from the outset. 35
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  37. 37. Involving older people Older people aren’t just potential beneficiaries of your project, they have knowledge, experience and useful connections that can make a real difference to your project. 37
  38. 38. As discussed earlier, as people get older there is a risk of them becoming more isolated, spending more time at home and taking part in fewer community-based social activities. This can often lead to them being labelled as being ‘hard-to-reach’ along with other groups in society. But don’t assume that all old people are at home alone — some may already be actively participating and volunteering in the community. There will be different levels of involvement for older members of the community, whatever the project, and there will be various times when you should think about how inclusive your activities should be. There are four main levels of involvement: Informing – telling older people what you are doing and why it applies to them. Consulting – talking to older people about the project, getting their views and opinions. Participating – older people taking part in the activities you are planning for your project. Volunteering – enabling older people to take part in the delivery of the activities your project is planning. Encouraging older people to be a part of the planning and organisation of the project, as a committee member for example. Different levels of involvement 38
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  40. 40. Use a range of appropriate forms of communication to access older people living at home. Local media – radio, newspapers (including the free ones), leaflet drops through letter boxes, flyers in shop windows and around local businesses or the library. Be aware that doctors’ surgeries get inundated with requests to put information in their waiting rooms and many are reluctant to take flyers, but it’s always worth making a polite request, particularly if your activity or event is health-based, or gives people an opportunity for meaningful activity or physical exercise such as gardening or walking. Word of mouth recommendations are often more encouraging than any flashy promotional material; so get all your friends, family, neighbours etc., to spread the word around. Local businesses which offer OAP specials on certain days, for example hairdressers, chemists, cafes and pubs, will already have regular contact with older people and might be willing to help get the word out. Then there are the larger organisations that support older people; for example Age UK, SAGA and U3A (University of the Third Age) run day and activity clubs in most areas in the UK (see below for more details). A quick phone call, a 10-minute chat to a group throwing all your enthusiasm at them and you might be rewarded with their support. Don’t forget to contact local disability and minority ethnic groups. Local authorities have lists of local community and voluntary organisations. You can access this on their website or ring them for a hard copy. Small independent groups often put information in shop windows and at the post office to attract local attention so scout around next time you pop in. There’s likely to be a ‘knit and natter’ group or a local historical society in the area. Informing 40
  41. 41. Good care homes are often on the look-out for somewhere to take their more mobile residents so don’t dismiss them as being full of people who can’t go out. It might only be one or two that turn up but you will have given them a great day out and if they enjoy themselves then the home manager is likely to organise for them to participate again. Memory or dementia cafes, Age UK day centres, and local care homes are useful contacts if you want to involve people with dementia in your project. Pharmacies and local cafes are good locations to put flyers about dementia-friendly events or projects. Think about places where carers and those they care for are likely to visit on a regular basis. Consider promoting your event as ‘dementia-friendly’. Local radio stations sometimes broadcast health programmes and are often popular with older people living at home, particularly if the topic is relevant. So get yourself - or someone else involved in your project – on for a 10-minute chat! 41
  42. 42. Using creative methods to engage with people can be a more productive way to gather ideas and inspiration than getting everyone around a table to asking direct questions such as ‘Do you want…?’ or ‘Do you like…?’ Creative activities stimulate people’s minds. At school and work we use our brains all the time. Older people still want to use their brains; remember that common saying – ‘use it or lose it’? You can help older people to keep those grey cells ticking over by using creative methods to engage them in helping you to plan your project. It’s proven that creativity keeps the mind active, so think about ways in which you can engage older people so that they help you get the best out of the project’s development stage. Using creative techniques such as art and music, even outdoor interests such as making wildlife habitats or willow-weaving, helps give older people a voice. Community meetings are not feared by those who have the confidence to voice their opinions but some people find them daunting or pointless because they think: ‘Who’s going to listen to me? No one’s going to think my idea is a good one!’ Creative sessions feel safe and fun, they relax people, and for older people it is a way of engaging with others socially. It creates a sense of equality and people are more likely to share ideas and concerns in a relaxed atmosphere whilst their attention is focused on doing something. Consulting 42
  43. 43. Let them eat cake Make sure you have plenty of refreshments and mention them in your promotion. Tea and cake are always a great incentive to come, and a brilliant ice-breaker. Just drop in ‘Drop-in’ sessions can be useful in that people don’t feel they have to commit to a specific time and that perhaps a casual glance around the door on the way to the shops would let them see if there are a lot or just a few people. Drop-ins also give an older person the chance to chat with someone and you may be the only person they’ve spoken to that day or, sadly, all week. So be flexible with your timing if you decide to host a ‘drop-in’. It’s also a chance to get some of those flyers and other information out about your project, asking people who drop in if they wouldn’t mind popping a few in the post office or down the local pub. 43
  44. 44. So you’ve got the word out and you’ve had some interest from older people in the community. Now’s the time to engage them in your project so that they have a great experience, tell everyone else about it and if appropriate, come back again. Older people like to be around people of other generations too. Family events are great because they can spend quality time with their families. For those without family nearby, it’s a chance to be around younger people and to experience that connection again. Rather than start by trying to determine what makes an event or occasion enjoyable for older people, or create activities aimed specifically at older people, think about how you can make your planned activities more age-friendly. When designing activities, events or projects for your community ensure older people are included in the same way that you would young families, or teenagers. Plan activities in which they can engage in with others (not a separate table for ‘older people’s activities’!); plenty of comfy seating for those short rests; refreshments; good lighting so that they can see what’s available; clear signage on activities, toilets etc. And don’t forget the ‘welcome’ factor. Is the entrance to the event clearly marked? Does it look appealing to older people? Are there smiling faces to welcome them? At the end you want to find out if people have had a good time and would come back again. Having some simple way to evaluate people’s experiences will encourage them to tell you. Too many questions on a large sheet of paper can be off-putting, but something as simple as a pebble or coloured counter in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ bucket is more appealing. Use this opportunity to find out if anyone would like to get actively involved in future projects. Participating 44
  45. 45. Many older people already volunteer in their communities and might be willing to help you out with your project. A good place to find them are the organisations through which older people often volunteer such as Rotary; Lions clubs; Women’s Institutes and the Soroptimists. You can also use your local volunteer centre to find volunteers of all ages. Local branches of these organisations will be full of people with local knowledge and contacts. They could well be a source of volunteers for your project and possibly even small amounts of funding. Community Service Volunteers run a programme called the RSVP, or Retired Senior Volunteers Programme, which is aimed at encouraging people over the age of 50 to volunteer in their communities. Volunteering Rotary Lions clubs Women’s Institute Soroptimists Volunteer Centres RSVP, (Retired Senior Volunteers Programme) University of the Third Age (U3A) Useful links 45
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  47. 47. Intergenerational activity Projects that bring generations together keeps old people young and helps young people grow, sharing skills, knowledge, experiences, stories, and culture. 47
  48. 48. Sessions with each group individually can help people to feel more comfortable before bringing them together for the first time, particularly if your participants are individuals from the community rather than an established group, e.g. a youth group or an Age UK group. Both younger and older people will benefit from having time to bond with others from their own generation initially. It also makes it easier for you to get them together as they’ll feel more comfortable knowing that they will have already met some of the people who attend the first full intergenerational meeting. One way to engage people across generations is to use an activity that enables older people to share their skills and knowledge with young people. But the opposite is just as effective. Many successful intergenerational activities or projects use modern technology as a tool to bring the two generations together. Technology has become increasingly accessible with digital cameras and tablets and this has opened up opportunities for young people to demonstrate their knowledge to the older generation. Recent concepts such as selfies and short videos are being introduced to older people who are fully engaging with what for many will be a new way to do something they did years ago with older technology. Sports and games are other useful cross-generational activities. The two generations can enjoy sharing their stories around their favourite sports or get physical and share a game. Memorabilia is something useful that older people can share with young people; showing them Engaging across generations It is easier to bring young and older people together by doing some foundation work first. Technology Sports and games 48
  49. 49. the older styles of sportswear (remember those fashionable knee- length football shorts of the 60s?). How about theming an activity around ‘New Versus Old’? Each generation can share its knowledge of a modern or older game and then get the group into mixed-age teams to play a game of each and see who wins. Or find a sport/game that has spanned the generations; explore aspects of it that have altered and those that have remained the same. Music can bridge generation gaps. Exploring what music means to people can bring out common interests between the two generations; it doesn’t have to be about the content of the music but the impression it leaves on people and any music from any generation can make us feel happy, sad, energetic, bored etc. You’ll quickly find an activity where people play music that represents different emotions (you may need to dust off that old turntable that’s been in your attic for 20 years) and will trigger conversations about why that happens. From that comes shared experience and mutual understanding. An intergenerational cooking workshop could enable older people to pass on the recipes that they were taught to younger people, as well as providing an opportunity for them to learn some new recipes from others. Cooking together could stimulate conversation about nutrition, how to make meals on a budget, where food comes from or how it’s grown. It could even lead to a community cafe project. The Centre for Intergenerational Practice has a website where there are examples of case studies and a library of resources that you can use to inspire thoughts around creative engagement. Music Food 49
  50. 50. 50 My Tree, My Community Christmas can often be quite lonely for older people. The Eden Project’s My Tree, My Community is an intergenerational seasonal project which uses older people’s stories to fire young people’s creativity. Older people are invited to local schools to share stories of Christmas past and present. The children then work with an artist, using the stories they’ve uncovered as the inspiration for Christmas decorations. Each tree tells a unique story of a community, a lifetime of memories and of knowledge to be passed on for future generations. When the trees are decorated they are displayed at the Eden Project where they are seen by thousands of people over the Christmas period.
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  53. 53. Making the most of older people’s skills and knowledge Like many in our communities older people need an opportunity to be valuable and valued. Retirement, old age or disability won’t stop people being useful to your project. 53
  54. 54. We often assume that everyone wants to be in a club or a group, but for some it’s a daunting vision, for others it’s just not their cup of tea. They may, however still enjoy the feeling that they have contributed in a meaningful way to their community. For example, a man who has practical skills may not want to join a men’s club but is happy tinkering away in his shed fixing other people’s broken tools or making soil sifters for a local gardening club. A woman may not want to leave her pet at home alone all day but is happy baking great cakes in her kitchen or using her greenhouse to grow plants for sale in your project. Some people are good at practical tasks, others have a penchant for numbers or design, or organising people. It takes all kinds of skills and knowledge to organise an event or a project so don’t consider older people solely as beneficiaries of a project. If they have skills that will help your project to be more successful then invite them to be part of the decision-making. Establishing mutual respect will help to diffuse potentially negative attitudes that may arise from past experiences. Older people need to feel that they will be listened to and that their ideas and comments will be respected just like anyone else. For some, this may be the first time their opinion has been asked about anything that happens in the community so make this gathering a comfortable, safe environment where people feel they can express their ideas openly. Accessing older people’s skills and knowledge Are there older people in the community who have skills and knowledge that they would like to use more? It’s important to recognise that people enjoy different levels of participation and involvement, depending on their confidence, personality and availability. 54
  55. 55. Older people can help spread the word about events, celebrations, workshops etc, putting up information in local businesses and shops, passing the word through family, friends and neighbours, even the postman and milkman. They often know where older social groups hang out and are at home during the day to contact day- time clubs and groups. Involving older people in the planning and delivery of your project can help you engage with more older people in the wider community. It can be more tempting to attend or get involved in a project if the person telling you about it is within your age group, because it feels less intimidating and more likely that your requirements have been considered. Invite people to a coffee morning or tea party to chat about how they can help. You can do this during your initial planning stage, whilst you’re out and about with flyers or on a local radio chat about your idea or event. For some, a lack of confidence can be an issue and the thought of getting involved in a group activity can raise anxiety levels. This might be because they are new to the area and don’t yet feel settled, or because they are living alone and don’t feel confident about attending an activity without a friend or family member. If you are inviting older people to help out, assign clear roles and responsibilities. Make use of their skills and knowledge – it helps them to feel valued and takes some of the pressure off you too. If your project is about a venue or an event then hold this meeting at the place itself, if you can. It will help the group to get a feel for what your idea is and how they can be involved. If that’s not possible then somewhere like a local cafe or community centre. Try and avoid small, meeting-room style places; they are rarely inspirational environments and can create the wrong atmosphere. 55
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  57. 57. 57 Living Street Walking with older people Living Streets gets older people walking and actively improving their communities in South Yorkshire. Older people in Rotherham, Sheffield and Doncaster are carrying out access audits in outdoor environments for older residents; particularly access to local services such as shops, doctors surgeries, libraries etc. it’s also reducing social isolation for many older people by involving them in volunteering opportunities, such as leading walks and getting involved in heritage projects. They have highlighted issues such as insufficient resting places and lack of dropped kerbs, pavement parking and overhanging branches. Their reports have helped local authorities to address some of those issues; benches have been installed in some places and handrails and dropped kerbs have been installed in a shopping precinct. The programmed walks are helping older people to maintain physical fitness and reconnect with their communities. with-us/walking-with-older- people
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  59. 59. Conclusion 59
  60. 60. Conclusion There are lots of older people in the UK and the number is growing. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) tells us that there are currently 11 million people over 65, representing nearly a fifth of the population (17.7%). Projections suggest that this will increase to nearer a quarter in the coming years (23.5% by 2030).   Even if your project is not specifically aimed at benefitting older people, these numbers are significant. They represent an opportunity, a valuable resource with a wealth of skills and experience in your community. A survey by the Department of Work and Pensions found that just over half of the people approaching retirement age had aspirations to volunteer, where volunteering was defined as unpaid work through a group, club or organisation.   Older people can be usefully and meaningfully engaged or involved at all stages of your project, from an initial idea and project planning through to ongoing activities and volunteering. Like any other individual member of your community they have their own skills, experience and aspirations. One thing they share is a wealth of life experience commonly combined with a sense of history and community in your neighbourhood, village, town or city. Reaching and connecting with older people can sometimes be a challenge but creating a project that values the involvement and contribution of older community members and makes them feel considered and welcome will make it easier for them to become a part of what you are doing.   Your project can make a positive difference to the lives of older people in your community and their involvement can make a positive difference to your project. 60
  61. 61. Continued participation in the economy, community and culture is good for individuals and good for society. It keeps us active, healthy and happy. The research community calls this productive ageing…” From The New Old Age: Perspectives on innovating our way to the good life for all, NESTA, 2009 ‘There was a relationship between volunteering at least once in the last 12 months and life satisfaction. For older people the proportion of those who volunteered and said they were satisfied with their lives overall was higher at 84%. For those who did not volunteer 75% said they were satisfied with their life overall.’ Measuring National Wellbeing: Older People’s Leisure Time and Volunteering; Office of National Statistics, 2013. 61
  62. 62. The Sensory Trust: The Eden Project: Rotary: Lions clubs: Women’s Institute: Soroptimists: Volunteer Centres: volunteer-centre RSVP, (Retired Senior Volunteers Programme): University of the Third Age (U3A): The Green Gym: Engaging with Older People Evidence Review, Age UK. Bingo and Beyond; Starting to Look at Good Practice When Working with Older People, Engage with Age, June 2004. Grouchy Old Men? a brief guide to help develop services that engage isolated older men and promote good mental health and wellbeing, The Mental Health Foundation, 2010. Later Life fact sheet; The Later Life UK factsheet is produced by Age UK and updated on a monthly basis. It is available publicly in a downloadable PDF format. Further reading and resources Online resources Print resources 62
  63. 63. Fact box - Loneliness and isolation information from (Blanchflower and Oswald (2004), Is Well-being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle? Social Science & Medicine) (Ramscar et al. (2014), The Myth of Cognitive Decline: Non-Linear Dynamics of Lifelong Learning) A few headline facts and figures taken from Later Life UK factsheet, (Age UK, 2015) and the Campaign to end loneliness References Page 9: Page 16: Page 18: Page 18: 63
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  68. 68. 68 The UK has an ageing population. There are more people over 65 than there are people under 16. What impact is this having on our communities? How does this affect community projects? The Eden Field Guide to Working with older people explains how older people can make a difference to your projects and how your projects can improve their lives.