How do we make work that engages people across generations? 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! Ageing: 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 ageing. 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. Conclusion 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. www.theequilibrium.org @T_Equilibrium_T #vintagehumans #letsgettogether Tags: 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 work. Stella 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.