InCommon Buddies

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Project description

InCommon Buddies is an intergenerational programme that brings children and older people together over the phone or online at a time of social distancing. Typically, it sees an older person, a child, and an InCommon facilitator meet once a week over Zoom for games, activities and discussions that facilitate intergenerational learning and fun. 

InCommon, who usually run face-to-face workshops with children and older people in retirement homes, were keen to keep generations connected during the pandemic. Many older people were at risk of increased loneliness, isolation and mental ill health during lockdown. Meanwhile, children were missing out on the structure of school, as well as interactions with people outside of their families. We knew that young and old continued to have much to offer one another, and we wanted to facilitate ongoing connection at a time of social distancing. 

What was different about this approach?

The programme positions older participants as volunteers, who benefit from making a contribution to children’s learning and development. Research has found that volunteering improves older people’s wellbeing and social connections in their communities. Crucially, this remote iteration of the programme has allowed older people to volunteer from the safety of their own homes while shielding, enabling them to feel purposeful at a time when they risk feeling removed or separated from society.

What is the impact and benefit for people?

InCommon have facilitated 120 intergenerational Buddies calls during lockdown, packed with games, activities and discussions intended to bring fun, learning and intergenerational connection to participants. As part of the process, the programme has helped many older participants to try video calling for the first time, and to become more confident in using technology to stay connected. Older people have reported feeling boosted by contact with children and their families:

Pat reported “It does improve my life. When you’re an elderly person you spend a lot of time on your own or speaking to people of your own age. Speaking to children makes you think different, it lifts you for a while”

Peter reported:  “I look forward to the video calls. I feel that we are doing more than sharing our experiences and comparing lifestyles; we are creating a friend network”

InCommon have facilitated 120 intergenerational Buddies calls during lockdown, packed with games, activities and discussions intended to bring fun, learning and intergenerational connection to participants. As part of the process, the programme has helped many older participants to try video calling for the first time, and to become more confident in using technology to stay connected. Older people have reported feeling boosted by contact with children and their families:

Pat reported “It does improve my life. When you’re an elderly person you spend a lot of time on your own or speaking to people of your own age. Speaking to children makes you think different, it lifts you for a while”

Peter reported:  “I look forward to the video calls. I feel that we are doing more than sharing our experiences and comparing lifestyles; we are creating a friend network”

Is the solution sustainable post-Covid?

While InCommon are looking forward to being able to resume face-to-face workshops once it is safe to do so, they will certainly continue to draw on parts of the Buddies programme in the future. For instance, Buddies has enabled children and older people to develop deeper, one-to-one relationships in a way that InCommon are keen to nurture going forward.

In addition, it has allowed support to older people in growing their digital literacy, which brings benefit to them in their wider lives beyond the Buddies programme.  InCommon are currently seeking to incorporate these elements of the programme into their work going forward. 

More information

www.incommonliving.com/buddies-about