Intergenerational care bridges the age divide


In a sector often beset by bad press, innovations in intergenerational care continue to provide some welcome good news. CHP looks at how word is fast spreading of the benefits the model provides for care home residents, children, care staff, care providers and commissioners.

Although the UK has been behind the curve in global terms in taking up intergenerational care, the model is finally beginning to take hold as a concept in our care homes and wider community.

“We are catching up,” Stephen Burke of United for All Ages, told CHP.

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“A lot of these schemes have being going on for much longer in places like Japan and the US. Australia and Canada are also starting to do a lot more. The government in Singapore has invested in co-located care as part of their Ageing Society strategy. Some of this is also commonplace in places like Holland, France, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia.”

The concept of intergenerational care originally came into being in Japan in the mid-1970s.

Recent progress in the UK has been abetted by positive media coverage, including the Channel 4 series, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds.

“Television is such a powerful medium because people can see it happening,” Stephen said.

“People being able to see the joy and the magic of older and young people mixing and the impact that it has on both generations has really made a huge difference and made people feel yes we should be doing this ourselves. It just feels like the right thing to do.

“There are big benefits in terms of improving older people’s physical and mental health and tackling loneliness and isolation. Care homes can be quite lonely and isolating places for some people. Engaging people in meaningful activities helps improve health and makes working in a care home more interesting.”

Examples of care home intergenerational partnerships
Care provider/partners Programme
Nightingale Hammerson, Apples & Honey nursery On-site care home nursery Nightingale House, South London
Anchor, Busy Bees Care home nursery visits Augusta Court, Chichester, Clayburn Court in Peterborough, West Hall in West Byfleet, Surrey, Norton House and Greenhive in London
Age Connects Morgannwg, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, Cwm Taf University Health Board Cynon Linc, Aberdare, Community Hub day nursery
Millennium Care Worthington Lake Care Village, Wigan, £12m intergenerational development, including nursery, assisted living flats and care home
Wren Hall, Nottinghamshire Specialist dementia unit with Little Wrens nursery and before and after school facilities
Buckreddan Care Centre and Little Deers in Kilwinning, Ayrshire Nursery partnership
CHS Group housing association, Cambridgeshire Sheltered student housing
Tamarix Lodge, Withernsea, Yorkshire, Hica Group Nursery partnership
Wilton Hall Village veterans home Nursery alongside a community café and enterprise hub
Methill Care Village £10m development, including 36 bed residential care home, specific needs housing, and a new Early Years Centre
Torbay Council Care home childminder scheme (Easter 2019)


United for All Ages has set a target of 500 shared sites with a mix of activities for older and younger people by 2023.

“All of this is happening at numerous care homes across the country without government policy although it was great to see the Health and Social Care Minister Matt Hancock say recently that he would like to see more co-located care because he recognised the benefits for older people,” Stephen told us.

It’s an area that is being taken increasingly seriously by government with two Parliamentary inquiries being undertaken into the benefits of the approach. Stephen hopes the intergenerational model will receive further endorsement from the long overdue Social Care Green Paper.

Jewish care home provider Nightingale Hammerson has been a pioneer in same-site intergenerational care, launching its Apples & Honey nursery at its Nightingale House in South London in September 2017.

“There are economic advantages for providers to co-locate and you can develop a USP for marketing yourselves to different generations and sharing costs,” Stephen said.

Staff benefits

With one in five nursery places offered by Apples & Honey to Nightingale House’s care workers, Stephen said it was a “win-win” situation all-round.

“To help care staff with child care will surely help retain them,” Stephen noted.

Turnover at the ‘outstanding’ rated home is roughly half the sector average of 30% at 15-20%.

Another outstanding rated service, Wren Hall Nursing Home in Nottinghamshire, has seen similar benefits for staff retention since opening its own nursery in March 2018.

Managing director Anita Astle told us: “We need good staff and the majority here are women. They asked us if we would consider opening a nursery.”

Having recently lost her parents in her family home which neighbours Wren Hall, Anita decided to locate the nursery there.

“It’s flourishing,” Anita said. “It’s a win-win situation. The children love going to the home.”

Further shared site schemes, meanwhile, are in the works such as the £12m Worthington Care Village in Wigan, which will include a care home, specialist dementia care unit and assisted living units, alongside nursery and community facilities.

“It’s really encouraging that people are taking this on board now and doing it from scratch rather than bolting it on,” Stephen said.

Torbay Council

Torbay Council, meanwhile, is one local authority leading the way in the integration of childcare and social care services.

Childminding Development Worker at Torbay Council Lorraine George completed an intergenerational fellowship in the US in 2017 where it is common practice for care homes to host nursery and primary school classes.

“What I saw was so incredible in terms of the difference it made to the children and the residents taking part,” Lorraine told CHP.

Torbay Council has supported Lorraine in organising nursery and pre-school visits to care homes since her return from the US. Visits currently take place to around 20 care homes in the district.

“We have started to hold intergenerational conversations across teams, which I never had before,” Lorraine said.

“You really need to bring in other teams and talk to your community – it’s a whole community approach.

“It’s the only way forward in the culture we are in at the moment to work in partnership with somebody.”

The council secured some capital funding last year to encourage care homes to develop a room for childminders to offer intergenerational activities.

The first service under the programme will be launched at Warberries care home in Torquay this Easter.

“We plan to encourage other care home managers to come in and see how easy it is to set up,” Lorraine said.

“There are real benefits for early years’ children in terms of building relationships and having a better understanding of diversity and difference and disability.”

Risk assessments are carried out and residents at the home are selected for the sessions to ensure maximum security for children taking part in the programmes.

Local authority initiatives such as Torbay bringing together different services are being promoted by Stephen across the country.

“There is an underpinning shared ethos between providing child and adult care,” Stephen said.

“So much of our care is quite siloed by age so we are encouraging councils to bring these two groups together as part of the wider issue of tackling age segregation in our country.  Our big social aim is tackling age segregation and building trust and understanding between generations.”


Not for profit provider Anchor, part of the Anchor Hanover group, meanwhile, is one of the leaders amongst the major care home operators in adopting intergenerational care.

Anchor sponsored a series of regional United for All Ages workshops in February and March to encourage more care and childcare providers to get together.

The not for provider has a partnership with leading nursery provider Busy Bees, which carries out weekly visits to a number of homes.

“Our children look forward to visiting the care home and enjoy engaging in activities with the residents,” said Marg Randles, Busy Bees Founder and Chief Academic Officer.

“For children it promotes enhanced language development, confidence and independence respect and understanding. For the residents, it gives real purpose and drive and something different to look forward to. Children bring joy into the lives of many and the residents look forward to their visits. For some helping the children gives enhanced meaning to their day. For some it brings back memories of their own children.”

Intergenerational care has become a key component of Anchor’s person centred care ethos which has resulted in the provider leading the field in terms of outstanding care with nine top rated homes.

As well as incorporating toddler and school visits, Anchor has also developed The Archie Project which is an intergenerational dementia awareness project linking primary schools and care homes together and delivered as part of the school’s individual curriculum. Under the programme, schoolchildren go into care homes once a week to do activities with older people, make friends with them and learn about their life stories.

Looking ahead, intergenerational care is set to play a key role in combating ageism and integrating care for the elderly within the wider community.

“Opening up care homes to the wider community also helps improve the quality of care,” Stephen said.

“It helps increase understanding of what happens in care homes and tackles people’s fears of dementia and ageing and tackling ageism.”


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