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Our views16 January 2024

Bringing generations together through social action

Sarah Mitton, Age Friendly Communities Manager at Clarion Futures, writes about how we are working to create age-connected communities that foster connection.
A photo of Sarah Mitton

“We’re committed to continuing on our journey to creating age connected communities, finding ways to bring people together in the places that connect them and through the issues that affect them. ”

Sarah Mitton, Age Friendly Communities Manager at Clarion Futures

By Sarah Mitton, Age Friendly Communities Manager at Clarion Futures

Through Clarion Futures, we are committed to investing in projects that seek to bring generations together, testing new and innovative approaches to creating connections within our communities.

Four years ago, we brought the business together to develop an Age Friendly Strategy – a set of objectives for creating connected communities, where people get the right support at the right time, irrespective of age. At the heart of our strategy is the belief that we have more in common across generations than many of our previous housing strategies, services or programmes recognised, and that segmenting our communities merely by age is not how to tackle deep-rooted societal issues.

One of the key themes which has evolved out of this work is the need to foster intergenerational connections. We saw stories of support and connection emerging during the pandemic – neighbours supporting one another with shopping, chatting over the garden fence, setting up street parties – and spotted an opportunity to build on something positive that was forged at such a difficult time.

Therefore, we commissioned a report to explore how we could sustain the intergenerational connections arising from the pandemic, and the findings set out a number of approaches for Clarion to test. These included embedding ‘age friendly principles’ across our programmes, investing in intergenerational activities and working collaboratively across sectors to drive forward the age friendly agenda.

Building on this, over the last two years we have worked with cross-sector partners such as InCommon, Intergenerational Music Making, Sovereign Network Group and Places for People to develop an Intergenerational Social Action programme, bringing generations together to co-design and deliver projects that tackle some of the challenges their neighbourhoods face.

With £1.2m match-funding from the #iwill Fund, we have been able to support younger and older residents to create projects around themes such as storytelling, greening our streets and music. In Dorking, for example, local people set up a fantastic project that brought different generations together through the power of song. The project had a significant impact on both the younger and older participants, building confidence, reducing social isolation and loneliness and changing perceptions. One of the older residents said: “It’s lovely to get out of the house and to see the children’s faces when they are having so much fun.”

More than 1,000 people have already engaged with this intergenerational social action programme, which is managed by a board made up of residents aged from 13 to 72, and the success of the approach has led to further investment over the next two years to build and sustain the programme.

We have also joined a consortium of partners to set up Intergenerational England – a new public body endorsed by the government to campaign for the need for better investment in intergenerational practice. Senior leaders from organisations such as Care England, Age UK, the Co-op and the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust (HACT) have all committed to the approach which seeks to tackle ageism through integration rather than segregation, and better measure the impact of programmes that bring generations together.

Launch of Talking Generations campaign

One of the key campaigns we are co-funding as part of our work with Intergenerational England is Talking Generations. Launched with an intergenerational choir singalong at Waterloo Station last year, Talking Generations seeks to promote the social benefit of conversations between generations. As part of the campaign, we have been sharing positive stories from across our communities, demonstrating the positive impact connecting generations can have on creating strong, resilient neighbourhoods.

Society has changed at speed over the last 50 years, and solving the connection challenge will not be easy. Only by coming together across community investment, housing and development teams can we create cohesive and impactful change that is long-term and drives a shift in thinking and community.

At the launch of Talking Generations, when asked about why intergenerational connections are so important, Jennine, one of our older Clarion residents, said “we are learning from each other and having fun in the process.”

To me, that sums it up perfectly. And that’s why we’re committed to continuing on our journey to creating age connected communities, finding ways to bring people together in the places that connect them and through the issues that affect them.

This piece first appeared on the website of Inside Housing on 8 January 2024.