26 July 2021

ScHARR collaborate on a project to explore intergenerational practice and how it could be used in health and social care system to benefit children and young people

A team from The School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), has secured NIHR funding to explore intergenerational practice and how it could be used in our health and social care system to benefit children and young people.

Grandparents and grandchildren with their backs to the camera, looking out at a harbour

A team from The School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), led by Fiona Campbell, has secured NIHR funding to explore intergenerational practice and how it could be used in our health and social care system to benefit children and young people (the iGEN project). The team will collaborate with academics based at the University of Exeter, led by Professor Jo Thompson Coon. The team at Exeter are embarking on a similar project to understand more about the role of intergenerational practice for the benefit of older people.

Fiona Campbell said: “COVID has had devastating effects on children and young people, disrupting their education and leaving them isolated at a stage in life when peer friendships are so important to their development. It will be wonderful to explore how intergenerational interventions might bring benefits to children and young people that perhaps can address some of the disadvantages this pandemic has brought.”

Opportunities for social connection between generations in the UK have diminished over the last few decades because of changes in the way that we live and work. Intergenerational practice aims to bring people together in shared activities such as art, gardening, reading or music which have been shown to improve the functioning and quality of life of older people and promote awareness and understanding between generations. The UN report on Global Ageism published in March 2021 highlights the role of intergenerational interventions in addressing ageism and calls for greater investment in evidence-based intergenerational interventions.

Professor Jo Thompson Coon said: ”We have been fascinated by the energy and magic that surround intergenerational activities for many years – the iGEN project is an exciting opportunity for us to contribute to the evidence base and inform the future research agenda – being able to work with colleagues in Sheffield and with the many people we’ve met in the field of intergenerational practice is going to be a real treat!”.

The teams, who are made up of researchers and those involved in commissioning, delivering and experiencing intergenerational activities, will be using existing evidence to improve understanding of the role of intergenerational practice (programmes and activities) in health and social care from the perspectives of both children and young people and of older people. They will use rigorous methods to gather and appraise relevant evidence, using a mapping approach to provide a visual representation of the state of the evidence. The map will be used as the basis for discussions with people who develop, deliver, experience and commission intergenerational activities to choose an area to focus on in greater depth. The voice of people with practical experience of intergenerational activities will be at the heart of every stage of the project.

Ellie Robinson-Carter, Socially Engaged Creative Practitioner and Consultant and member of the research team said: “Working across communities to ignite intergenerational connection, I am lucky enough to see first-hand how older and younger benefit from such activity. Feelings of joy, greater confidence, nurturing new and revisiting existing channels of communication, stimulating cognition and new conversations - are just a few of the benefits that are evident in the people who take part.”

The work will be published by the Campbell Collaboration, an international social science research network that produces high quality, open access and policy-relevant evidence syntheses, plain language summaries and policy briefs. The project started on 1st July 2021 and is due to finish in December 2022.

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