One Planet Matters supports intergenerational connections through food growing and nature engagement. We work with schools, care facilities, and community spaces to set up growing areas where older and younger generations can come together to enjoy nature-based activities, learn from one another through stories and engagement, and grow delicious and healthy food together. This is part of our Change Maker Initiative, which aims to reconnect people with their local environment and community through growing food in raised beds and orchards.
Image: Planting a June Berry tree at Asra House Care Home with their residents along with pupils from Abbey Mead Primary School, Leicester. This tree will produce beautiful flowers which will encourage biodiversity to the site as well as creating a wonderful multi-sensory experience for residents. The intergenerational connection between Abbey Mead and Asra House is made possible by Ruth Sinhal from The Linking Network, who we work with in the area, as well as Shabin Ikram from Abbey Mead and Shabbir Aswat from Asra House. It is a pleasure to be able to support them and watch these connections flourish.
WHY ARE INTERGENERATIONAL CONNECTIONS IMPORTANT?
We believe that strong intergenerational connections are important for individuals and communities, and that nature-based knowledge which is passed on between generations is a vital part of protecting and regenerating a healthy and sustainable relationship with nature. Here are some ways in which intergenerational connections are important:
For older people:
• Combats loneliness and depression in elderly people through the sense of fun and excitement that children bring.
• Many older people become more comfortable having conversations.
• Allows older and younger generations to learn from one another - older people pass knowledge and wisdom from their life experiences, and children offer creativity, energy, and innovative ideas.
• Allows older people without grandchildren to experience intergenerational connection.
• Combats age-based stigma.
• Exposes older people to new ideas and perspectives.
• Childrens’ energy encourages physical activity in older people, which can increase their mobility and strength over time.
• “When older adults are given meaningful roles as mentors or role models, they are reminded of their ability to contribute to society. Intergenerational programs provide the opportunity to fulfil basic human needs and reintegrate older adults into society” (Morita and Kobayashi, 2013).
• Allows children to learn about different life stages and experiences, as well as stories about their local history.
• Encourages empathy, kindness and open-mindedness, as well as their understanding of disabilities - parents have noticed that their children speak more positively about old age and disabilities following intergenerational meetups.
• Allows children who don’t spend much time with grandparents to experience intergenerational connection.
• Combats age-based stigma.
• Intergenerational activities have been shown to benefit childrens’ communication, reading and social skills as well as their confidence and self esteem.
• Parents have spoken about their children being gentler with family pets and more empathetic in general.
• Children benefit from being around older people who become positive role models.
• “Britain has been described as one of the most age segregated countries in the world. This can cause loneliness and exclusion, lack of trust, ageism and division between the generations” (United for All Ages, January 2020). By bringing elderly and young people together to engage in fun connective activities, we can combat this generational divide, disrupt the stigma that young and old people often associate with each other, and help tackle depression and loneliness.
• Parents also benefit from their children engaging with older people - they see the behavioural benefits in their children as well as hearing the stories of their local history and community - getting parents involved in intergenerational activities both lessens the workload of care home staff and allows parents to personally connect with older people too!
• The social experiences that children have early on impacts the way that they engage with people throughout their lives, as well as broadening their perspectives and understandings of different life stages and experiences. When children grow up having fostered the qualities of empathy, patience, open-mindedness, and compassion, they take these qualities with them into later life, which benefits all of society.
BENEFITS OF NATURE-BASED CONNECTIONS
In modern urban environments, nature-deficit disorder affects children and the elderly most severely. This is instigated by the increasing separation of older and younger generations from nature experiences. Children spend more time in front of screens and in classrooms, and the elderly are increasingly resigned to their homes or care facilities, which too often involves isolation from nature. We are lucky to work with some amazing care homes and schools which really care about enhancing the wellbeing of their pupils and residents through nature-based activities. It really is inspiring to watch younger and older generations coming together to connect with one another and our environment.
Some benefits of reintegrating nature experiences into the lives of urban dwellers - children and older people particularly - include:
• Children get to learn how to grow food and nurture plants, gaining a valuable skillset as well as encouraging care and confidence, while these activities benefit older peoples’ memory and allow them to impart their knowledge to younger generations. One study found that older people’s “roots, identity and good memories were closely linked to experiences and a life lived in nature and the outdoor environment” (Johansen and Gonzalez, 2018). Older people can share the value of these experiences with children, passing on the excitement of being involved with the natural world with the younger generation who will become caretakers of their environments.
• “Gardeners’ cultivation habits can become accommodated to “fashionable” vegetables sold by global commercial providers in supermarkets. Given the renewed interest in seasonal and local food, however, it appears that older generations have retained knowledge about so-called forgotten vegetables and act as personal “seed banks” for younger gardeners” (Hake, 2017).
• Learning to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs gives children a better understanding of natural systems and reconnects them with where their food comes from. Children living in cities often have very little concept of food growing from the ground, and all of the processes that got the food from soil to plate. Growing their own food exposes them to local seasonal vegetables which are grown organically and non-intensively. They gain a deeper appreciation for healthy food that benefits rather than degrades nature. These concepts can be hard to teach young children in a classroom setting as the problems and solutions can feel too far away from their lived experience, and out of their control. Growing food gives children agency in their health and their environmental impact, where learning about nature through experience instils a sense of ecological stewardship in local populations, which benefits people and planet. • Older and younger people can share the experience of a beautiful outdoor space which is full of multi-sensory stimulus - smelling the flowers, listening to the bees and birds, feeling their fingers in the soil, tasting fresh herbs, and seeing the gorgeous array of colours and biodiversity. Nature experiences reconnect us with our bodies and our senses, contributing to a healthy and active lifestyle and a stronger sense of Self.
Get in touch - we would love to support you!
If you are part of a school, care home, or community group which would be interested in us supporting intergenerational nature-based activities with you, please get in touch! Drop us an email if you are interested in working together to restore our connection to community and wildlife
Blair, D. (2009). The child in the garden: An evaluative review of the benefits of school gardening. Journal of Environmental Education,40(2), 15–38.
Arnerich, M., 2020. Intergenerational Care: How to Get Started | Famly. [online] Famly.co.
Dyment, J. E., & Bell, A. C. (2008). Grounds for movement: Green school grounds as sites for promoting physical activity. Health Education Research,23(6), 952–962.
Gilbert, P. R. (2013). Deskilling, agrodiversity, and the seed trade: A view from contemporary British allotments. Agriculture and Human Values,30(1), 101–114.
Hake, Barry. (2017). Gardens as Learning Spaces: Intergenerational Learning in Urban Food Gardens. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships. 15. 26-38.
Johansen, H. and Gonzalez, M., 2018. Being in contact with nature activates memories and offers elderly people in nursing homes beneficial experiences. Sykepleien Forskning, [online] (69738), p.e-69738.
Morita, K. and Kobayashi, M., 2013. Interactive programs with preschool children bring smiles and conversation to older adults: time-sampling study. BMC Geriatrics, [online] 13(111).
Rodiek, S. D. (2003). Influence of an outdoor garden on mood and stress in older persons. Journal Theoretical Horticultural,13,13–21.
Schusler, T. M., Krasny, M. E., & Peters, S. J. (2009). Developing citizens and communities through youth environmental action. Environmental Education Research,15(1), 111–127.
Stephen, B., n.d. 5 Reasons Your Care Home Should Adopt an Intergenerational Approach. [online] Insequa.
United For All Ages, 2019. The next generation: how intergenerational interaction improves life chances of children and young people. 1st ed. [ebook] Norfolk: United For All Ages.
Williams, D., & Brown, J. (2012). Learning gardens and sustainability education: Bringing life to schools and schools to life. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.