Global Intergenerational Week 2022

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

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

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.