No Lonely Old Age

No Lonely Old Age

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I want to tell you about one of my favourite projects in the world, one that inspires me and fills me with hope. It is just one example of community connection that begins to address an important issue preoccupying me at the moment. I truly believe that isolation and loneliness is at the root of many personal and social problems. This particular project targets loneliness and fear through intergenerational relationships.

The project I love is Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle, an elderly care home that also runs a pre-school nursery in which the older people and small children mingle, bond and learn. Styled an ‘Intergenerational Learning Center’, both ends of the age spectrum receive care from staff, but also gain mutual benefit from being together. The cross-generational activities include art and music classes, story time and exercise time.

Playing with the toddlers gives the older people great joy, a renewed sense of vigour, and a purpose in life. Their self-worth increases monumentally, since they have a role in life again. For the young children themselves, they receive one-to-one nurturing attention, they learn skills like listening and talking, but also learn acceptance, tolerance and respect for older and disabled people. These relationships are a delight to witness: the mutual love and caring, and the overwhelming happiness is obvious to see. Take a look at the trailer for the documentary Present Perfect.

This a practical example of how loneliness can be targeted in both the young and the old. For me, it’s a way of re-engineering the way we do things and using existing resources to create better outcomes for all concerned.

We can’t all sit by, waiting for government or other people to do something about social and global issues. The power is within us, if we come together to make things happen. There is great strength in community.

  • What can you do to make someone else less lonely?
  • What else can we achieve, by thinking ‘otherwise’?
  • Re-imagine ways of doing things to create better outcomes for people, or resolve wider problems.
  • Can you find – or have you found – some like-minded people to address an important issue?
  • What will it take to start a movement that becomes a global tide of change?
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  1. Hi Marc,

    A great project indeed. I was introduced to a small charity trying to do something very similar in the UK about a month ago. Check it out… http://www.intergen.org.uk. Keep up the good work 🙂

    All the best,

    Steve

  2. Such an amazing project!

    We can all learn so much from each other, young an old.

    However, it really bothers me when us “old” ones speak the truth that some don’t want to hear and call us grumpy old men!

  3. Judy Hayman says

    Living as I do in Sheltered Accommodation this is something very dear to my heart. Sometimes I feel that I am a lone voice in the establishment where I live trying to bring a bit of companionship and interest into some of the residents’ lives, particularly those who have no family around them. When things get me down I remember how lucky I am to be involved in helping to provide childcare for my twin 4 year old Great Nieces.

  4. Sahira Ward says

    We have followed Pam Warhurst and Mary Clear and have made Incredible Edible Dunstable. We are one baby step nearer changing peoples attitude to starting a conversation, it is really hard graft sometimes.

  5. ■What can you do to make someone else less lonely?

    lobby the tory / right wing governments that slash public spending on local government community provision and financial benefits for older, disabled, socially isolated, and financially deprived persons – in all age groups, throughout our societies. ask any public or charitable agency about how that screws vulnerable people down harder.

    ■What else can we achieve, by thinking ‘otherwise’?

    stop thinking individual ‘otherwise’ and concentrate on the inequality experienced by older people who have been left in poverty by the the uncontrolled free-market, dominant in most societies. global capitalism controls society, not governments, nor deluded individualists. point to anywhere that counters this premise? ‘we’ can achieve only by mass movement and solidarity, to counter practically the force of multi-national companies, oligarchs or the state, that usually will resist – whether in saudi arabia, russia, singapore or england (see shell, see the bush oil-dynasties, see putin’s cronies or thatcher’s use of state force against the working class in 1984). your dreamland stuff has no understansing of the human animal. and, anyway, where is your next business trip winny?

    ■Re-imagine ways of doing things to create better outcomes for people, or resolve wider problems.

    see above and double it – stop, strike, unionise! your bosses at work, your dominant class rulers will give you nowt otherwise. private equity giants dismiss their portfolio companies and their staff like treading on ants, if it suits.

    ■Can you find – or have you found – some like-minded people to address an important issue?

    yes – union or other public mass movements the world over. they are on the streets throughout the world, often non-reported and violently opposed by the forces of their respective countries – throughout south america, europe, u.s., africa, and the far east. often modern mass media ignores, but they are finding world wide solidarity through social media and world wide web organisations like 38degrees and avaaz. one petition signed by 500,000 people can achieve big change, or at least resist major threats to the environment or vulnerable communities – you will not achieve any positive, measurable, social change by dribbling your nebulous ideas onto the web every two weeeks.

    ■What will it take to start a movement that becomes a global tide of change?

    meaning what? rampant and uncontrolled capitalism started such a change in the united states of america, spreading world wide, in the 1920 / 30s. that was a most unhelpful tide of change. hitler started a movement that became a global tide of change. ISIS are doing the same. what do mean by that statement – what exact kind of change are you wanting ? maybe change that gives everyone the same amount of dosh that you have – do you want to share it out maybe? surely you should think a bit more before you slap another glib sentence onto your ‘view inside me’ ?

  6. I have been thinking along the same lines for 20 years. Lots of lonely older people and even more families with no relatives, so children only have only one or two parents/carers to learn from. Communities benefit children and make a better society.
    What a poor and almost deprived life when there is so much untapped abundance. Society is isolating itself and Internet/mobile phones isolating us even further whilst giving us a sense of belonging. Virtually belonging.

  7. And why aren’t the younger generation taking care of their own parents? In the East, it’s culturally expected for us to support our parents in their old age and even have them live with us. 3-generations in one household is common and the grandparents spend a lot of time with their grandchildren.
    So reduce the loneliness by inviting your older parents to live with you??

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