An intergenerational project linking care homes with local communities

We were delighted to receive an Awards for All grant from The Big Lottery NI in early 2016 for our ‘Linking, Learning, Growing Together’ project to test out our ideas and pilot an intergenerational approach to connecting care homes to the community in partnership with Kirk House (part of BCM) and local schools and youth/community groups nearby in the Knock area of East Belfast.

The project started in April 2016. P6 children from Glinahirk Primary School completed Dementia Awareness training delivered by the multi-tasking Manager of Kirk House, Andrea Selby. The children were proud to receive Dementia Friend badges and certificates in recognition of this. They then took part in an arts project with the residents, meeting in school and in the care home, since they are just 10 minutes walk away from each other. Participants of all ages commented how much they enjoyed seeing the smiling faces of each other. School Principal, Mr Harrison, sees the project as a great way to ‘de-mystify’ both the care home and school environment – two spaces that tend to exclude other people and other age groups and commented ‘I think we should continue with this, we could easily do it, it doesn’t have to cost anything.’

The second part of the project has seen Kirk House link up with Tullycarnet Youth Group. The younger participants took part in dementia awareness training firstly and then engaged with the older residents of Kirk House in a series of reminiscence sessions using memory boxes supplied by the Ulster Museum. The project ended with a celebratory fashion show held at Kirk House with vintage fashions dashingly modeled by many of the participants of both generations!

The final part of the project will see Kirk House make new links with Our Lady and St Patrick’s College and the final celebration event will be in the new year.

We are really keen to continue to learn from the experience of this project and develop our ideas, many of which are based on conversations and meetings with promoters of the ‘My Home Life’ initiative here in NI and across the UK, that have taken place over the last 18 months or so. We really hope that learning from this project will help us to build this project and attract income to develop it across NI. We want every school and care home to be connected!

Click here for the full report and evaluation of the project