Intergenerational Projects in the Netherlands

Introduction by Dr Tim Clark, Executive Head of Early Education and Childcare, BS Community (formerly Southville Community Development Association)

This summer the TV production ‘The Old People’s Home for Four Year Old’s’ succeeded in raising significant interest in the potential benefits of ‘intergenerational’ groups and activities. As one of the partners involved in this project our organisation, BS3 Community, was particularly keen to ensure it created a longer term legacy, and to build on our existing intergenerational work at the Southville Centre. This work includes twice weekly visits to Amerind Grove Care Home and partnership projects with the Southville Centre Monday Club for Older People. Shortly after the programme aired we held a meeting with the leadership team of St Monica Trust with the idea of exploring the possibility of working towards creating a sustainable longer term model in Bristol. A few weeks later I found myself touring around the Netherlands with a group led by St Monica Trust including two CEO’s of care providers, three architects and the Head of Policy for the National Care Forum.

The intention for our trip was to effectively have a three day planning meeting, looking at existing models and creating a vision for a longer term collaborative project. Amongst our visits was a project where childminders worked from a care home in Eindhoven, a shared school, nursery and dementia unit building in Uden, and a project with students living in a care home in Utrecht. We also benefited from round table discussions with several leading experts in Europe, including the lead academic for the European ‘Together Old and Young’ (TOY) project.

The key learning from the trip was that neutral community spaces, not dissimilar to the Southville Centre, were key to supporting the most positive projects. One of the childminders we spoke to told us ‘when we went into the housing it didn’t work, we were invading other people’s space, when they built a common space people made choices to be together’. These spaces often centred around food, for example community cafe spaces at the front of a retirement village. We also found that the most successful projects involved very strong partnerships between organisations and professionals who had developed a shared vision, in fact multiple people commended the fact that we’d started our journey by taking this trip together. Finally, whilst the TV programme focused on the benefits for older people, importantly we found that where projects successfully positioned the older people as ‘guardians of knowledge’, this enriched children’s learning and engagement, as well as supporting their capacity to build relationships.

In the short term, we intend to develop a new project with St Monica Trust through our brand new ‘Chessel Centre Nursery’ in Bedminster. Meanwhile plans for a more integrated nursery and community space in Bristol are ongoing, with architects coming from Manchester in December to visit both of our sites as part of the process for designing a nursery space into an existing retirement village site – so watch this space!

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Early Learning Contacts

Nicola Theobald, Lead for Early Years Partnerships
Kate Hubble, Early Years Improvement Officer
Kate Irvine, Early Years Improvement Officer, Early Years Consultant
Beth Osborne, Early Years Consultant
Ali Carrington, Early Years Consultant