Louise Goulden on how intergenerational activities are combating loneliness
Tell us about your vision for The Together Project and how it came about?
The Together Project is all about creating joy between the generations. Younger and older people often don’t get the chance to mix in social settings these days, and that has a real impact. It leads to loneliness, isolation, mistrust, ageism and a sense of many older people being “shut away”, which deprives the rest of us of their experience and wisdom.
The vision is a range of intergenerational activities that bring different parts of our communities together. The first one we’ve launched is Songs & Smiles – music, fun and friendship for little ones, their grown-ups and care home residents. It’s a weekly group that aims to put a smile on everyone’s faces while being enriching for both the children and the older people, many of whom have dementia.
How hard is it to roll something like this out? What kind of experience did you bring to the project?
My experience of the non-profit sector comes entirely from my volunteer experience over the years, but my professional background is in marketing, which has been really valuable in terms of establishing the project and helping it grow. I quit my job to launch The Together Project, which was quite daunting but also very exhilarating!
There’s been lots to learn along the way, so I’ve made it a priority to surround myself with experts in the field to make our work as valuable and impactful as it possibly can be. Recruiting volunteers is one of the biggest challenges, but as word is spreading we’re getting more and more enquiries, which is fantastic.
What impact is the project having?
A I’ve had some wonderful testimonials from care home staff about the impact on residents, especially those with dementia – everything in terms of improved verbal and motor skills through to just having “something to look forward to”. Many of the residents have told me it’s the highlight of their week, and I’ve had some particularly moving feedback from residents’ family members about the change they’ve seen in their loved ones since we started coming.
I also love hearing from the parents, particularly those with toddlers and preschoolers who’ve noticed how, over the weeks, they’ve gone from being a bit shy or nervous to happy and excited about going to see the “grandmas and granddads”, as one little girl calls them!
Are there plans to make the service available in more places?
Yes, absolutely. Over the coming months we’ll be launching new Songs & Smiles groups in north east London, where we started out, and at a number of locations across England, starting in Surrey. Anyone who wants to find out more can sign up to our newsletter on our website or follow us on social media through facebook.com/togetherproj.