Intergenerational care
How it works and who it benefits
This month the first nursery (early childhood education and care service) to share premises with an aged care home will open in London. Apples and Honey Nightingale will provide opportunities for around 200 elderly residents from Nightingale House to meet daily with the 30 young children attending Apples and Honey Nursery.

Speaking to Nursery World Judith Ish-Horowicz, the principal of Apples and Honey nursery, which she set up in Wimbledon 26 years ago, said it had been her dream to set up the service for a long time.

The nursery will operate 50 weeks per year and will offer education and care opportunities for children aged two to five years. Establishment of the service comes off the back of a long-running relationship between Nightingale House and Apples and Honey nursery, who had been visiting the care home twice a term for 15 years.

Speaking to Nursery World Ms Ish-Horowicz said she thought the service was the first of its kind in the United Kingdom and she hopes the model will be an inspiration for other providers.

'There are nurseries that have relationships with care homes, but this is the first time I'm aware of when the whole raison d'être is to have daily planned activities, particularly structured for children and residents together,' she said.

The nursery will be housed in repurposed spaces in the care home, including unused nurses' quarters and a maintenance building, and will open on to a garden area, which residents will visit and have helped to plant. There is also a pet corner with rabbits and guinea pigs.

At the recent launch party the director of external relations at Nightingale Hammerson Ms Susan Cohen said the care home was like a different place.

'It's an open, fun environment. You can just feel the life in the air. It's very special. The residents love the children. It's been really collaborative, and it seems so obvious. You wonder why more places don't do it.'

The children and residents will spend time together every day, cooking and baking, doing exercise and movement classes, music and arts and crafts.

Could this work in the Australian context?

Intergenerational care is still in its early stages in Australia, however, researchers at Griffith University are currently looking at the options. Professor Anneke Fitzgerald and Dr Katrina Radford along with Dr Nerina Vecchio are leading a nationwide investigation into the future of respite aged care centres and the potential development of an intergenerational model for delivering care.

Professor Fitzgerald says the idea for the study came to her while she was talking to her daughter about the challenges of working in the early childhood educator, which she realised were similar to those in aged care.

She says the aim of their study is to build an age-friendly community where the quality of life for both the young and old can be positively affected by mixing their care in an intergenerational setting.

The researchers are particularly interested in delivering care which helps to maintain the health and wellbeing of older people, provides opportunities for ongoing education and reduces cognitive decline so older people can stay in the community for longer.

According to the researchers, the idea of mixing young and old is not new, but the idea of mixing aged care and child care in a formal program isn't straightforward, and key issues to be negotiated include the development of workplace policy that accommodates both the healthcare (aged care) and education (child care) sectors.

The researchers have presented a range of their models of care to experts in the early childhood sector and the aged care sector and speaking to the Community Care Review Professor Fitzgerald says there has been an enthusiastic response.

The model that has excited them most is that of a dual campus, where an early childhood learning centre and respite day care centre could be placed side by side with common facilities.

One of the challenges of bringing early childhood education and care and respite together is that child care standards often include an educational component. However, for Fitzgerald this represents an opportunity to embed continued education into respite care and track early cognitive decline.

"Regular monitoring of cognitive development in children is very common, whereas monitoring of development or decline in older people is not done until there is actually an issue," Professor Fitzgerald told Community Care Review.

Similarly, the curriculum planning at Apples and Honey Nightingale, Professor Fitzgerald says she would like to see all activities in the centre guided by an educational framework, which would, when appropriate, see the young learning from the old, and the old learning from the young.

In addition to the educational and social benefits for both the children and the older people Dr Nerina Vecchio said cost savings could be driven through operating dual campus centres as they could share resources.

Another potential benefit she identified in an interview with Community Care Review is the professional development opportunities for staff, in that an intergenerational centre could create a space for both respite and child care workers to extend their careers. Professor Fitzgerald says their research team is examining where aged care and child care assistants' roles overlap, and what skills an intergenerational worker would need. Other issues, such as regulations for working with children, would also need to be negotiated.

For more information on this research and how intergenerational is working in other parts of the world see the articles below.

Further reading

Community Care Review Researchers test intergenerational models of respite care

Nursery World First nursery at care home unveiled

Day Nurseries Can a Channel 4 experiment revolutionise how we care for old people?
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