I thank my colleague Jackie Dunbar for bringing this important topic to the chamber for debate and highlighting the excellent work of the charity Generations Working Together.
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.