Global Intergenerational Week 2022

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 28th April 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

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.