The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-04039, in the name of Jackie Dunbar, on global intergenerational week 2022. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I ask members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons now or as soon as possible.
That the Parliament notes that Global Intergenerational Week runs from 25 April until 1 May 2022; understands that the campaign originally started at a local level, before growing to a national level event and is now going global for its third year; further understands that the aim for the week is to inspire individuals, groups, organisations, local and national government as well as non-government organisations to fully embrace Intergenerational Week, which, it believes, will help connect people of all ages, particularly the younger and older generations; understands that in 2022, eight countries will participate, including Ireland, America, Australia, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Sweden and the UK, with a different theme set for each day of the week; notes that over 80 organisations have signed up to support the week, while also attracting the attention of international partners; understands that intergenerational practice aims to bring people together in purposeful, mutually beneficial activities, which, it believes, promotes greater understanding and respect between generations and helps to contribute to building more cohesive communities; understands that Generations Working Together is working in partnership with organisations from across the UK; further understands that Generations Working Together is a nationally recognised centre of excellence, which supports the development and integration of intergenerational work across Scotland, and understands that the vision of the charity is for a country where all generations are more connected and everyone can build relationships, which it believes, will help to create a fairer society.
I thank colleagues across the chamber for their cross-party support, and I thank in advance the folk who are taking part in the debate. I also thank Kate Samuels from Generations Working Together for the help that she has provided to me.
Intergenerational week first took place in 2020 as a local campaign by St Monica Trust. Following its success, it grew into a national campaign in 2021 before it became the global campaign that it has become this year.
The campaign is led by Generations Working Together, which is an intergenerational charity that is based in Scotland. It has gone truly global, with eight countries, including America, Spain, Australia and Sweden, joining in. They have worked alongside partners from every nation in the United Kingdom—Linking Generations Northern Ireland, the Beth Johnson Foundation in England, and the bridging the generations project in Wales. It is understood that each country will lead on a programme of events, with intergenerational interactions and social media co-ordination throughout the week. That will show the activities of each country that is participating in global intergenerational week across the globe. I hope that that will help to inspire other countries to become involved in future years.
To date, more than 150 organisations have registered their support for global intergenerational week. In looking through the list of organisations, I was delighted to see that my local authority—Aberdeen City Council, whose area Aberdeen Donside lies within—has registered its support, but I was surprised to see that, out of all our local authorities, Aberdeen City Council and Perth and Kinross Council are the only ones to have registered their support. I say to the local authorities: “Come on—you can do better.”
It is through intergenerational practice that younger and older generations are able to come together and learn from each other. One example of intergenerational practice could be the older generation in local communities helping to teach younger generations how to cook. We, as adults, sometimes take that skill for granted. Teaching young folk how to cook is often learned from the older generations in families and passed down. I know that my grunny’s baking was second to none and that how to do things was passed down to her children and then to her grandchildren. I swear that I can still taste her apple crumble when I put my mind to it.
However, not everyone has family nearby to pass on such skills. It does not have to be just cooking skills. Sharing skills can help both generations—the young and the not-so-young.
Intergenerational practice is one way in which we can help to fight an increase in loneliness in our communities. It is estimated that around 500,000 older people go five or even sometimes six days a week without speaking to or seeing anyone at all. The number of people over the age of 50 experiencing loneliness is set to reach 2 million by 2025-26, which is a 49 per cent increase on the figures in 2016-17. I am sure that we are all agreed that that needs to change.
I note from the Scottish Government’s 2018 strategy “A Connected Scotland: our strategy for tackling social isolation and loneliness and building stronger social connections” that
“the role of the Scottish Government in reducing social isolation and loneliness is to foster the right environment and create the conditions for people and communities to design and deliver the solutions that best meet their needs.”
That shows that it is vital that, if Scotland as a country is to continue to aspire to be inclusive in all areas of life, we need to ensure that all generations in our society communicate with one another and that no one is isolated or feels left out of the communities in which they live. I am pleased that the Government is committed to tackling loneliness and isolation across all generations in Scotland. We must not leave anybody behind.
The vision of Generations Working Together is for a Scotland where different generations are more connected and everyone can build relationships that help to create a fairer society. Generations Working Together promotes intergenerational projects, because the charity is dedicated to promoting intergenerational work. It trains, supports and links projects.
Generations Working Together is a national charity and a centre of excellence in intergenerational training that delivers training to communities, charities and individuals, in person and online. It is working in partnership with Linking Generations Northern Ireland, the Beth Johnson Foundation in England and the bridging the generations scheme in Wales to deliver global intergenerational week across each of the devolved nations and should be applauded for the work that it is doing to help raise awareness of intergenerational practice and share good practice.
It is crucial that no one in any community in Scotland feels isolated or lonely. The fantastic work that Generations Working Together is doing across Scotland will help to ensure that Scotland becomes a nation where the generations seamlessly work in collaboration. The incredible work that the charity does will help to ensure that folk who feel isolated or lonely are aware of the opportunities available to them in their local communities and can access such opportunities.
I strongly encourage all members to encourage intergenerational practice across their constituencies and regions and to raise further awareness of global intergenerational week in the areas of Scotland that they represent. It is important that we have a Scotland where individuals and communities are more connected and that everyone has the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships regardless of age, status, circumstances or identity.
We can all agree that the past two years have been challenging. It is important that we recognise the challenges of isolation and loneliness presented by the pandemic for all generations and the negative impact on some opportunities for intergenerational working.
I always enjoy hearing examples of the intergenerational associations that have been created across Scotland and am delighted to have the opportunity to highlight the inspiring work that has taken place across my constituency of Cunninghame South in North Ayrshire. Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, a number of special relationships were developed between primary schools and older-generation groups. St Mark’s primary school and early years class visited Vennel Gardens. Stanecastle primary school allied with the Burns day-care centre.
Special recognition has to go to St Winning’s primary school in Kilwinning for its stellar efforts at community intergenerational developments. St Winning’s primary worked hard to develop a number of intergenerational opportunities with groups such as Chalybeate sheltered housing, Buckreddan Care Centre and the St Winning’s over-60s club. Working with Lingo Flamingo, the young people helped older residents to learn Spanish words, which were later tested while playing fun games of Spanish bingo. At Christmas, the young people performed a selection of songs and carols for the St Winning’s over-60s club and encouraged its members to get involved.
As a result of the incredible benefits that both groups felt through intergenerational working, people from Woodland View dementia unit, based at Ayrshire Central hospital in Irvine, had a day visit to St Winning’s primary school for a range of activities, including a roast beef lunch with other members of the community and a Christmas assembly. The day visit involved pupils in primaries 5 to 7 being assigned a Woodland View patient, and they spent their time giving them a tour of the school and having a meal with them.
The older folk enjoyed sharing stories and gaining an insight into present school life, which was fun for the young people and helped them to develop essential life skills. The rich and diverse intergenerational projects at St Winning’s underline the mutual benefits to both the younger and older generations and the extent to which that enhances their health and wellbeing.
Sadly, as we all know, the pandemic resulted in some face-to-face interactions being paused. In the midst of adversity, the people of North Ayrshire found other ways to contact the older and sometimes isolated residents of care homes, to make them smile and let them know that someone was thinking of them.
We saw Artastic CIC’s pots of talent project in Kilwinning providing schoolchildren with pots and paint, so that they could design a colourful reminder for those who were alone in lockdown that they were not forgotten. The Co-op’s community member pioneer for Irvine and Dreghorn developed the sunshine through your letterbox campaign to help those in local care and nursing homes during self-isolation. Those campaigns involved hundreds of local children sending care homes some sunshine in the post through daily drawings, poems and uplifting messages.
The activities co-ordinator at Three Towns care home in Stevenston noted:
“The residents really enjoy looking at the pictures. It definitely cheers them up and lifts their spirits.”
She planned to print out the drawings to put up around the care home, as the residents really enjoyed looking at them.
Those simple remarks, and the other examples that we are setting out today, speak volumes about the mutual value and happiness of intergenerational friendship and collaboration. As our life returns to more of a normality, I am happy to echo Jackie Dunbar’s call to inspire and reconnect people of all ages, who have so much to gain from one another, in Scotland and around the world, in starting or restarting intergenerational connections.
I thank and pay tribute to Jackie Dunbar for securing the debate. As my party’s equalities and older persons spokesperson, I am pleased to take part.
As we know, this year’s global intergenerational week runs from 25 April to 1 May.
From its humble beginnings, the event has grown and acquired international status in a very short space of time—in just over three years. I am particularly enthused that the event in Scotland this year has been broken down by Generations Working Together into specific daily themes. The themes provide insights and opportunities to plan for the future by developing new ways to explore and discover the myriad of resources that are available across generations. It is highly encouraging to see many organisations and groups such as the Forth Valley intergenerational network, in my region, all pulling together for what is a highly important common goal.
The development and celebration of relationships between generations is exceptionally relevant and has never been more important as we emerge from the pandemic. It will help to rebuild communities, with young people catching up with their learning as we tackle and reduce ageism.
In many communities across my region and Scotland, isolation and loneliness increased as a result of the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns, as has been mentioned. I have concerns about how that is being tackled. We need to look at ways to ensure that communities and individuals can come through that. There are many stereotypes when we consider what has been happening during the lockdowns, but younger and older people alike have difficulties with isolation and loneliness.
Many residents have access to electronic devices, the internet and social platforms, but those are no substitute for the face-to-face interaction that many individuals require. Moreover, it is widely accepted that loneliness and isolation have a similar impact on mortality as that of smoking around 15 cigarettes a day. That is just one reason why intergenerational connection should be encouraged across our communities so that our neighbours, friends and colleagues can get together to interact and fight loneliness and isolation together.
As I have said, ageism can be a major blight to communities. It has serious consequences and detrimental effects on individual self-esteem, mental health and wellbeing. It is important that we consider that age is just a number and that we have more in common with other generations than we think. Sadly, ageism persists in Scotland, although there are many efforts to tackle it, which I welcome.
Ageism, loneliness and isolation impact health, wellbeing, finances and the economy and present serious consequences for individuals’ human rights. Age Scotland’s recent survey provided a wide range of information, and showed that only 7 per cent of respondents agreed that older people were represented positively, especially in the media. A massive 51 per cent of over-50s said that older people were not valued for their contribution to society, while 36 per cent believed that they were made to feel a burden on society. We must tackle those issues. I look forward to hearing what the minister says on that when she sums up.
It is especially important that we educate and encourage people of all generations to interact with one another as far as humanly possible. That is why I whole-heartedly encourage initiatives such as global intergenerational week and support it in the chamber. I wish everyone involved in the initiative the best in their endeavours to ensure that we can work together to benefit everyone in our communities, regardless of their age and responsibilities.
I congratulate my friend and colleague Jackie Dunbar on securing the debate. She has highlighted the global, Scottish and wider United Kingdom intergenerational work. Intergenerational practice aims to bring people together in purposeful, mutually beneficial activities that promote greater understanding and respect between generations and contribute to building more cohesive communities. It is right that we are marking and supporting global intergenerational week.
Due to changing demographics and greater mobility within families, generations are becoming increasingly isolated from each other. Both younger and older groups can become victims of stereotyping and discrimination. For example, we have all heard blanket statements such as, “Older people can’t do social media.” However, when generations work together, they realise that those generalisations are inaccurate.
Many younger adults do not have the immediate support of their families for everyday discussions, and older people may no longer have easy access to family when they need support as they age. Both groups have commonalities that, often, neither side sees. When children encounter new concepts through interaction with others, those concepts and ideas are incorporated into their understanding. That works between generations, too. For young people, intergenerational working improves academic performance, and older adults can learn about new information and technologies. In general, the breadth and depth of learning improves for everyone. Culture, values and traditions can also be passed on. Hearing Jackie Dunbar describe her grunny’s bacon rolls is one of those examples.
Each generation learns about the other and gains a better understanding of strengths, fears and weaknesses. Each generation has resources that are of value to the other and shared areas of concern; that aids with providing a sense of empowerment.
A study by Professor Duncan Graham of the University of Strathclyde reaffirmed the benefits of intergenerational working. The study found that it recreates the links between generations and makes it possible to promote intergenerational understanding and respect. It can contribute to the development of individual competencies for a more inclusive society, and fostering intergenerational dialogue encourages collaboration. Generations will learn from each other, as has been mentioned already.
Intergenerational exchange significantly fosters solidarity, active citizenship and personal development, and can strengthen teaching quality. The benefits are many and should be built on and supported.
A local example is Loreburn Housing Association, which is doing fantastic work to promote intergenerational working. In Stranraer, at the former Garrick hospital site, eight one-bed and four two-bed extra-care dementia-friendly homes are being built, alongside a youth foyer, which is an employment hub offering supported accommodation for up to 12 young people. Youth foyers, which are recognised as international best practice, provide safe and secure housing, support and training for young people aged 16 to 25. The Stranraer development will be the first for Dumfries and Galloway, and only the second foyer in Scotland. Young people living at the foyer will be in education or training, an apprenticeship or employment, and will have access to volunteering opportunities within the community. It is a promising project and I look forward to it progressing. I invite the minister to come and visit the project when her diary allows.
Another local example is Malory house nursery and day care in Dumfries, led by Kenny Little. The nursery kids have interacted with older people in Cumberland day centre. They started doing that before the pandemic, and I understand that the nursery will restart the programme as soon as the weans and everybody can get back together again. The feedback has been so positive and all have enjoyed and benefited from the intergenerational experience between the children at Malory house nursery and day care and the older people at Cumberland day centre.
Again, I thank Jackie Dunbar for securing the debate. I welcome all the work that is being done globally, locally and across the United Kingdom, and I look forward to following it in the future.
I thank Jackie Dunbar for bringing the debate to the chamber. As someone who can still smell his Irish granny’s soda bread, I associate myself with Jackie Dunbar’s comments. I think that I am making everyone in the chamber hungry for their lunch.
I am extremely pleased to stand in support of global intergenerational week 2022, a campaign that, as we have heard, stresses the value of all of our generations in society, and a campaign that highlights the benefits of learning from and supporting one another—a measure that is integral to strengthening our communities and tackling social isolation.
Since the start of the pandemic, public health messaging has emphasised the importance of social distancing, but for hundreds of thousands of Scots who live alone and rely on community social support, a secondary, quieter public health crisis has surfaced, and that is loneliness.
We know that loneliness is a public health crisis, as it significantly increases the risk of stress, anxiety and depression, and it doubles the risk of dementia. In fact, as we have heard from colleagues already, long-term loneliness is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Although loneliness can occur at any and all stages of life, most triggers tend to congregate in later life due to factors such as retiring from work, being bereaved, experiencing illness and children moving away from home.
During the pandemic, the effects of social isolation were often felt most acutely by our older generation, many of whom fell into high-risk brackets and, as such, were forced to not only isolate but shield completely. For the rest, as a result of Covid regulations more generally, most mechanisms of social support, such as in-person community groups, were closed.
In common with colleagues across the chamber, during the lockdown period, I saw generations coming together in a way that perhaps I had not in the past. That could have been something as simple as young neighbours looking in on their older neighbours, to make sure that they had their shopping in or had their prescription picked up. There was a real willingness to go across the garden gate and have a conversation with someone, perhaps in a way that had not happened before.
There were also formal examples of that in my West Scotland region, in Renfrewshire. The intergenerational project and creative writing programme poetic pathways worked with older adults living independently in sheltered housing and young people from schools to provide an outlet for both generations to exchange their feelings and experiences during the lockdown. Pupils at local schools periodically wrote letters and cards, facilitating connections between the generations at a time when many were shielding and had experienced little or no social interactions. That had the effect of breaking down the stigmas that are often attached to both older and younger people, and it created instead a sense of partnership between generations through which life experiences could be exchanged and commonalities shared.
That project has moved on further, and poetic pathways has now created an interactive poetic walk down national cycle network route 7 in Renfrewshire, which runs from Paisley through Johnstone. Two schools that were involved in that, Glencoats primary school in Paisley and Fordbank primary school in Johnstone, are very proud of the work that they have done along with sheltered housing residents to put poetry onto that path for everyone to read. They won an award from Generations Working Together for their use of place and space, which absolutely has to be celebrated.
The third sector and voluntary organisations continue to work tirelessly to combat loneliness. In the Parliament, we all know that we need to do more to provide sustainable funding and support for those organisations. Undoubtedly, age-based discrimination and loneliness will often result from wider pressures in our society, not least within our health service.
Global intergenerational week is about having important conversations about recognising the value of every generation in Scotland and taking a next step towards continuing to reconnect our generations post Covid-19.
I, too, congratulate my friend and colleague Jackie Dunbar on introducing the debate in recognition of global intergenerational week. I commend the contributions so far, which have reflected just how much we can all relate to intergenerational week. It certainly resonated with me.
Inspiring individuals, groups and organisations to connect younger and older generations makes complete sense, especially given that tackling loneliness and isolation is an increasing policy concern for Government. As was articulated during the launch of this year’s campaign, it offers the chance to change the narrative from connection being just a nice thing to do to being essential practice.
Why? The improvements in older adults’ mental and physical wellbeing and the impact on conditions such as depression, dementia and, of course, loneliness are well documented. It also improves strength, leads to eating and sleeping better and to sharing stories, and tackles stigma, which are all significant health and wellbeing benefits for older people.
Although it is easy to assume that loneliness and isolation impact only older people, as Lee Knifton from the Mental Health Foundation Scotland reminded us, the
“elephant in the room is the ... number of young people ... who struggle to form relationships at a young age”.
Intergenerational practice has many benefits for children and young people, including shared thinking, stronger social skills, the development of empathy and kindness, and learning about local history.
Like many of my peers in the sandwich generation, I care for my parents and my own family at the same time. That is sometimes demanding, but it is an opportunity to build a strong intergenerational dynamic between my son and his grandpa. It was organic and natural for my son to visit his grandpa—my father—when he was in residential care and to take him for a walk to the nearby beach, help to set up the annual summer care home barbecue or just talk with residents in the common room about his school trip to the battlefields in France and Belgium. That was a wonderful opportunity for the residents to reminisce about their own lives and experiences. Importantly, it enabled them to acknowledge their own past, rather than have it be just a photograph on their bedside table or a memory kept but never really shared.
My constituency of Aberdeen South and North Kincardine is home to some fantastic groups and organisations that support intergenerational connections. My friends at Portlethen and District Men’s Shed never fail to amaze me with their sense of brotherhood towards not only each other, but those in their village and beyond. Recently, they prototyped and delivered a tinkering board, or busy board, for the local primary school to support younger pupils to tinker, learn and explore while developing their sensory practice.
I invite the minister to visit the Portlethen men’s shed after she has been to my colleague Emma Harper’s constituency. If she wants to drop in at the Old Torry Community Centre just along from my office any Thursday morning, she will find a fabulous group of physiotherapy students from Robert Gordon University who are running a community physio drop-in, offering older folks in particular the chance to chat about their aches and pains, do some exercises or just have a cup of tea and a blether. At the same time, the students are developing their clinical skills in a real-world environment—a living example of intergenerational practice.
At this point, I acknowledge Generations Working Together in Scotland and its Welsh partner, the Bridging the Generations initiative; Linking Generations Northern Ireland; and the Beth Johnson Foundation in England. I also acknowledge the work of the many charities and third sector and voluntary groups and organisations that are all working to support intergenerational practice. Many of them are supported by the £10 million commitment that the Scottish Government announced last year to support a five-year social isolation and loneliness plan. That will be a pivotal part of our national response as we face the challenges arising from the awfulness of the pandemic.
I wish everyone who is supporting and participating in intergenerational week well, and I look forward to hearing more about the work that they will be taking forward, both in Scotland and beyond.
I thank Jackie Dunbar for lodging her motion and for securing the debate. I am delighted to share in the welcome for global intergenerational week and the appreciation of the work of those behind it. It is essential for both individual and community wellbeing that we develop and celebrate relationships between generations and that, together, we work to combat loneliness; create inclusive spaces and shared stories; and build solidarity and overcome barriers to its expression. Intergenerational practice, care and learning are indispensable parts of that important work.
However, we need to acknowledge that some of the barriers between generations are structural and have been constructed by decades of deliberate policy and shameful inaction. For the first three quarters of the 20th century, there was an assumption that each generation of children would have better life experiences than their parents: they would be better housed, fed and educated; they would have higher-paid and more rewarding jobs; and they would live longer, healthier and happier lives.
That is no longer the case. Young people—not only the very young—are disproportionately burdened by massive levels of student debt and other debt; by precarious work, including zero-hour contracts; by career pathways being blocked, except to the highly privileged; by insecure, unhealthy and exploitative private sector tenancies; and by overburdened and inaccessible healthcare, especially in relation to mental health.
Just this week, LGBT Youth Scotland launched a new report that showed a huge drop in the percentage of young people who believe that Scotland is a good place in which to be LGBTI, from 81 per cent 15 years ago to only 65 per cent now. That statistic is shocking and sobering, as are the findings that 69 per cent of young people identify transphobia as
“a big problem in Scotland” and that 81 per cent say that media representation of LGBTI people “is not accurate”. Those are scandals for which their generation is not to blame.
I am proud that, as Scottish Greens, we have recognised that deep and broad intergenerational injustice and are addressing those issues head on. I urge others at all levels—the Government, Parliament and councils—to do the same. Much more must be done, especially by the generations that have benefited from the 20th century welfare state, to repair that legacy for those who follow.
Meanwhile, our younger generations, including the tiniest children, bear yet more, and even heavier, burdens in the form of the climate and biodiversity crises. The simplest and most fundamental foundations of our everyday lives—predictable seasons, rainfall, harvests, healthy soil, pollination and peace itself—are all diminishing as we watch and debate, are distracted and procrastinate. The righteous and accurate anger of Greta Thunberg, Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti and Carlos Manuel is—if it is noticed at all—met with condescension and contempt or with useless sentimentality.
Those two ways of responding to the voices of the young are, in reality, mirror images of each other. We either ignore what they are telling us, dismissing their experience and their analysis with cheap jibes and patronising pats on the head, or we sanctify them, taking their evidence and argument out of the realm of political action altogether. We might say, “These young people are so clever. They’ll fix it in the future.” It is not their job to fix things, and the time to act is not in the future.
I again welcome the initiative, and I whole-heartedly support the development and celebration of intergenerational relationships. However, those relationships must take place in political, institutional and structural contexts, not just in personal and social contexts. We need to develop a truly participatory politics that is shaped as much by the young as by older people and that has the honesty to name injustices and the courage to act on them.
I, too, thank Jackie Dunbar for securing the debate. It has been great to listen to what everyone has had to say. I will try to keep my comments quite light.
Global intergenerational week provides an opportunity to strengthen intergenerational bonds, communities and our response to major challenges in an uncertain world and to share knowledge and joy.
During the Covid pandemic, there have been examples of intergenerational connections that have literally saved lives. However, the pandemic has also highlighted the terrible toll of isolation like never before.
For decades, policies and practices have segregated younger and older people, which has resulted in a cascade of problems from ageism to loneliness and fragmented movements for social change. Scotland must strive for a future in which different generations are much more connected, with people working together to build relationships that help to create a fairer society.
The elderly can be vulnerable in our society, and, if we are honest about it, we can be guilty of taking them for granted. That can lead to solitude and confusion, and it can foster a general feeling of alienation in a community. However, by playing and reading with children, the elderly are less likely to suffer from loneliness, and our children thrive in those opportunities for one-to-one reading and playtime.
In Sweden, it is popular to twin nurseries with care homes. That not only boosts children’s literacy skills but improves the health of the elderly. In France, initiatives enable students and seniors to live together, which provides students with cheap accommodation in exchange for helping out.
Every generation wins when age-diverse programmes help to solve the unique problems that older and younger people face today, by creating new ways of addressing everything from homelessness to climate change. Let us forge ahead with innovative, joined-up policy thinking in Scotland.
Jackie Dunbar was the first to mention Generations Working Together. The Connecting Scotland initiative aims to boost confidence in digital technology. That is an exciting and sensible approach to fostering an intergenerational community, and we should support it whole-heartedly. The initiative is not just about digital skills. Indeed, at the heart of all such initiatives are the objectives of spending more time together, understanding one another better and appreciating the beliefs, values, achievements and potential of the generations that have come before and after us.
Inspiration is at the heart of weeks such as global intergenerational week, and I have seen at first hand the positive impact of intergenerational action in my Uddingston and Bellshill constituency. I take this opportunity to champion Jim Cuthbertson, an inspirational local man whom I am proud to call my friend. Too often, important work in the community can go unnoticed, and community leaders such as Jim are typically pretty humble.
Jim, who is based in Whitehill, has adopted a street—it is more like a housing scheme, actually. He visits more than 60 elderly isolated residents. He drops off shopping and prescriptions, goes round for a chat and a cuppa, offers companionship and generally goes out of his way to improve the lives of those round about him. Sometimes, Jim brings with him his grandson or other young people who have shown an interest in helping. That builds relationships that benefit both young and old.
Jim benefits from the joy that the wee chats bring him, too. He loves hearing all the stories of bygone times. I am sure that he will not mind me saying—at least, I hope that he does not—that he could talk the hind legs off a donkey, but he is putting that to the best use possible. He is a fantastic example of the power of everyday people coming together.
On the societal challenges that we face, it is often said that older people are less informed about climate change. I would argue that that is because they have limited opportunities to connect with younger generations, who see climate change as the greatest threat to their future. Equally, it is often said that younger people take many of today’s civil rights and workers’ rights for granted. I would argue that that is because there are not enough forums to hear from those who fought for union recognition and social justice.
With so many of our fundamental rights under attack, we must bring our generations together. Decision making needs to be global and intergenerational, because that empowers communities and empowers our society.
I am absolutely delighted to close this debate on global intergenerational week 2022, which, as we have heard, runs until 1 May. I thank colleagues from across the chamber for a wonderful debate, and I thank Jackie Dunbar for lodging her motion. My grateful thanks go to all members for their contributions.
Many of today’s speeches have included excellent examples of intergenerational projects—I have made a wee list of them, which I will come to in a minute. If I miss anybody out, please forgive me. It is important that, as a Parliament, we come together to support and celebrate this global event, which is organised by the wonderful Generations Working Together, a nationally recognised centre of excellence that supports the development and integration of intergenerational work across Scotland.
This is the first year that the event has gone global. More than 150 organisations from around the world have supported it, and it is great to see generations working together, with Scotland at the forefront of intergenerational practice at the international level.
The Government is clear that intergenerational practice can promote greater understanding and respect between generations and contribute to building more cohesive and fairer communities. That is why we work closely with a wide range of partners across the age equality spectrum, including Generations Working Together, which is a valued member of the older people’s strategic action forum and our social isolation and loneliness advisory group. I recognise the contribution that it makes there.
I echo Jackie Dunbar’s call for our local authorities to support intergenerational work. We all stand ready to support that, and we might get a wee taste of Jackie Dunbar’s granny’s apple crumble or Paul O’Kane’s granny’s soda bread—that would be lovely.
In order to facilitate that work, we have provided £600,000 to Generations Working Together, through the equality and human rights fund, to support its valuable work up to 2024. We also supported Generations Working Together during Covid by providing £58,000 from the immediate priorities fund and £76,000 from the winter fund for digital resources for faith groups and care homes. That included individual radios for care home residents—a simple thing that made a huge difference.
I am delighted that, tomorrow, Generations Working Together will launch a toolkit to support practitioners in developing intergenerational relationships through play and stories. The toolkit is a legacy from some pilot events from our get into summer play programme for 2021. Generations Working Together and Play Scotland were supported through Scottish Government funding to pilot intergenerational play and story projects, which I heard were absolutely wonderful. The toolkit will support understanding of how to develop such projects and build confidence in practitioners. I hope that that is a clear example for members who said that we need to learn lessons from everything that we do in order to develop great tools. Emma Harper and Audrey Nicoll, in particular, called for that.
We already know that, when generations mix together as equal partners, wonderful things can happen. I have certainly seen that for myself, and we have heard about some amazing examples today, whether it was Ruth Maguire’s lingo bingo, Emma Harper’s foyer visit—yes, I will come for a visit in Dumfries and Galloway—Paul O’Kane’s fantastic writing pathways project or Audrey Nicoll’s Portlethen men’s shed. I will visit there, too—I have a higher in geography, Presiding Officer, so I understand that it will take two trips to cover both of those, but thank you for your advice.
I pay tribute, as Stephanie Callaghan did, to Jim Cuthbertson, who is an absolute legend in Hamilton. It was great to hear about his work. I hope that she will welcome the fact that it is about not only funding and supporting those wonderful examples but building intergenerational practice into our futures.
A great practical example of that is the new collaborative intergenerational housing development in Alloa, which involves Architecture and Design Scotland, Clackmannanshire Council, the Scottish Government and Kingdom Housing Association. The development will provide 60 apartments in the town centre, close to essential amenities, and its key features will include dementia-friendly elements and mobility scooter charging points. That is a practical example of how we can build intergenerational practice into our future.
For older people, in particular, intergenerational practice can, as we have heard, alleviate loneliness, encourage participation and increase mobility and happiness. I hope that that reassures Jackie Dunbar that tackling loneliness and social isolation is a key priority for the Scottish Government.
Alexander Stewart made some incredibly important points on social isolation and ageism, and we are doing a lot of work in that area. The same is true of Connecting Scotland, and members should have a wee look at what Outside the Box is doing with digital buddies. I am happy to speak to Alexander Stewart about that in detail if he wishes, because there is so much more to say but no time to do so in this debate.
In the programme for government, we committed to investing £10 million in projects that focus on reducing social isolation and loneliness, and I hope that Paul O’Kane and Audrey Nicoll will be happy to know that the fund will open for bids later this year. I look forward to seeing what innovative approaches to this pernicious social problem result from that substantial investment. We are very excited about that.
As Ruth Maguire reminded us, we are living in very different times from when the issue was previously debated. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all—young and old alike. Not one person remains unaffected by the pandemic, which has forced us to change how we work and connect, but, my goodness, we have done so much to create those connections during the pandemic, and we need to learn how to sustain them. During the early months of the pandemic, we provided funding to do that, and I am happy to give more detail on that if members want it.
Maggie Chapman and Stephanie Callaghan reminded us of historical wrongs and modern-day challenges. Intergenerational good practice that builds positive relationships and dismantles negative attitudes towards older people or younger people has an important contribution to make in rebuilding our communities. There is so much more that I could have brought to the debate—including our human rights work, the equality and human rights fund and our work on the disability equality strategy—but I am quickly running out of time, and everybody is probably desperate for their lunch.
Global intergenerational week provides us with an opportunity to reinforce the connections that we know are needed to build a stronger and fairer society. We have come a long way towards a more inclusive and equal Scotland, where everyone can play their part in shaping their community, but there is more to do. I am sure that everyone in the chamber will play their part and seek to listen and learn from the wisdom of those of all ages as they do so.