Catherine Skinner, 11 January 2016

This question arose from a project that the company I co-run, The Equilibrium, is

working on. The project is called “Vintage Humans” and we have asked writers from

theirs 20s up to their 80s to respond to a brief that questions why we find value and

beauty in older objects and less in older people. We are staging a two day pilot festival

of eight new plays at Southwark Playhouse in May this year. One of our biggest

challenges is making the festival appeal to people of diverse age groups and I was

interested in how we might make “Vintage Humans” an inter-generational event as

well as to have a wider discussion about the possibilities of inter-generational work

and the benefits such work. I will attempt to order the discussion under subject

headings as we covered quite a lot of ground!


We began talking about ageing and that it isn't a topic that most people want to

engage in. We don't want to admit that we are ageing, getting older - it is a bit of a

taboo subject, even though it is happening to all of us….right now…..Perhaps an open

space about ageing, whether that be a blank sheet of paper on a wall, or an open

discussion, would be an important part of a inter-generational festival exploring


Finding Commonality across age groups

We than moved onto finding commonality across age groups. We started with objects.

Vintage clothing and curios is really popular and has value to younger people so could

we use objects to unlock stories about older people whilst still engaging younger

people. Also finding objects that have a shared interest or experience across

generations such as a shared love of a book or song.

We had the idea of a timeline of ages from birth to 100 in the space where the festival

takes place. Audiences would be asked to celebrate the positives of each age,

perhaps with a personal experience and then to share the date that they were that

age. We imagine that there would be lots of common stories and experiences across

generations. We would hope that the result would show how we can value each stage

of life as well as finding commonality. We also hoped that we might start to explore

what different age groups bring to each other?

We were joined by Sarah Dean from Magic Me - an organisation that work cross

generationally in East London with the aim of encouraging social cohesion in the local

area. Sarah shared that they will begin by working with the younger and older people's

groups separately on the same topic. Then after a few sessions will bring the groups

together. This approach works to engage both age groups in the topic so that this is

the focus rather than the age gap.

Benefits of intergenerational work

We all agreed that there could be huge benefits to inter-generational work. Shaam,

who works with older people in residential care, spoke of the wealth of experience that

is left untapped when people are seen as ‘old’. We agreed that reaching older people

who are isolated and/or in residential care is an important part of this work as these

people also have a huge amount to offer. Magic Me have a beautiful project that will

see four performance groups going into residential homes and working with the

residents. I am so looking forward to reading how this works in practise as nobody has

ever done anything like it, it sounds amazing!

We discussed how creative practitioners are well placed working with people with

dementia. The approach now is to ‘play along’ with the world that the person with

dementia inhabits rather than to try to bring them into our reality. A simple game of

“yes and” is the ideal way to start a conversation.


I was so heartened and encouraged by this discussion, which was by the way cross

generational in its make up! People care about bringing generations together and we

all agreed that making work with diverse age groups is of value to both local and wider

communities. Both younger and older people, and all of us in between, have so much

to offer to one another whether that be experience, a sense of purpose, or a shared

love of 1920s jazz. If we can find commonality and get people of different generations

together as a result of our work, we have the potential to have a positive impact.

Everyone who took part in the discussion was enthusiastic about being involved in

“Vintage Humans” in some way and thank you to all for their generous contributions.





inter generational, young people, Young people, social impact, Cross generational,

vintage, Community, community, Young People, social inclusion, older people

Comments: 2

Stella Duffy, 11 January 2016

great to see this.

our work with Fun Palaces has shown up lots of intergenerational possibilities and benefits from working across ages. One

FP is in discussion about bringing together and old people's home and a nursery to create a joint FP - there seems to be

lots of interest in and desire for cross-ages work, something that ‘family friendly’ doesn't quite capture (partly because it is

usually used to mean accessible-to/for-children, rather than every age) and partly because ‘family’ doesn't always feel

welcoming for non-parents, singles, older people without family etc.

don't have any data other than anecdotal (yet) but we can say communities making FPs are reporting that they're

meeting/working with new people of different ages and that they find it beneficial to them personally and beneficial for their



Catherine Skinner, 12 January 2016

Thanks Stella,

It was such a heartening and inspiring discussion, we've just got to make it happen!

Have you read about the project in the US that put a care home and a kindergarten next to each other? Results suggest

that both the children and older people have benefited hugely from contact with each other. I love the idea of putting this

concept in a Fun Palace, it could be so lovely.