Global Intergenerational Week 2022

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

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Photo of Jackie Dunbar Jackie Dunbar Scottish National Party

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.