Sometimes you have those moments in your work that really affirm why you do what you do. Those moments that really touch and stay with you; when you realise you are making a difference to people’s lives, even if in a very small way.
At Alive, my work involves bringing older and younger people together. It’s about opening doors, opening care homes to the wider community, allowing connection and communication across the generations. Our elders have so much to give and share; their opinions, their joy, their experiences, sometimes their sorrow. As a society we have a tendency to exclude our elders. We wrongly assume once they reach a certain age, or a stage on their dementia journey they have nothing to give – or are unable to give. We can close them off, almost shut them away and stop listening.
But bringing old and young together through Intergenerational School Projects has been a positive way of beginning to break down these barriers; of opening up understanding between the generations; of bringing community in to share with elders and enabling older people to show their talents and be cherished. Through our intergenerational Project “Paint Pals”, we have been linking up schools and care homes to exchange paintings and to meet up to paint together over an academic year.
One of my new projects this year has been between a school and care home in Bristol. The school and care home are neighbours and share a fence – whoever built it actually put a gate in between them, but it has stayed locked, – until now.
Watching the children involved in this Paint Pals project come through the opened gate from their school to the care home, to spend an hour painting with the elders was one of my “magic moments”.
Seeing the gate finally being opened and the smiles on the children’s and elders faces on meeting their Paint Pals, witnessing their small moments of connection. The eye contact, the smile, the touch of a hand. The word of encouragement from old and young, the admiration and sharing of each other’s work. Sometimes just being together in silence, being in the moment, engrossed in their paintings.
It’s just a start. A small start. The children and elders will continue to meet up and share this year. But we need more moments like this, in more care homes and schools to ensure more gates will be unlocked and old and young can come together and connect in such a positive, meaningful and creative way.
Many thanks to Isobel Jones, Business Development Manager at Alive