Modern scattered families mean that many young children now grow up without benefiting from time spent with older adults. However, there’s a quiet but steadily growing movement that could change all this – as evidence mounts that regular time together has benefits for both the old and the young.
In 1976, Shamuda Masaharu merged a nursery school in Tokyo with a care home for the elderly, while the nursery was renovated. It was a purely practical decision, but almost at once, staff at both noted social and cognitive improvements among the old and young. Older residents became more alert, interested in their surroundings, and talked and smiled more often. The children seemed happier and more responsive to the extra care and attention they enjoyed. The idea soon spread across Europe, the US and Australia.
Shared activities need not be restricted to schools or nurseries. Intergenerational orchestras, volunteer schemes and sport clubs are growing in popularity, with compelling results.
It’s high time to stop age segregation, and encourage people of all ages, particularly the very young and very old, to spend time together. Benefits are legion – older people report a reawakened sense of purpose, increased self-esteem and self-confidence, while the young gain social and linguistic skills and become more empathetic.
The Daily Telegraph