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Community Conversations: the challenges and opportunities for an ageing population

Posted August 8th 2019 by Pat Scrutton

Intergenerational National Network

Meeting on 14 March 2019 at Saracen House, Glasgow

Community Conversations: the challenges and opportunities for an ageing population; exploring intergenerational work

This meeting was hosted by ng homes, as one of their ‘community conversations’.

Local residents; people working in Possilpark and Springburn in a wide variety of settings; and members of the Intergenerational National Network were welcomed by Margaret Fraser, Head of Community Development.

ng homes is about people and communities; their vision is of a community where people can flourish and prosper; and their mission is to provide good quality housing and ongoing community regeneration and empowerment.

They have been holding a series of community conversations about loneliness and isolation, and how best to tackle these. The conversations were designed to build bridges across age groups and across cultures. They addressed the challenges and opportunities presented by an ageing population. And they asked what simple things we can do to combat loneliness, and to encourage people to become more involved in their communities and in society.

One theme that emerged was the importance of carrying out ‘ small acts of kindness’ and offering a smile or a kind word.  Such simple gestures can make a real difference.

Two years ago Springburn Community Council undertook a survey after a new road split the community. Over 1,000 people took part; they wanted shops, parks and other places to go. In response they have established a cinema club; a mini-market; and activities such as arts and crafts.

Brian Land is a Community Connector. He is working on a directory of local services and activities, both in digital and paper form, and is exploring ways of getting information out to people. This could include a noticeboard at the Saracen Cross; a community noticeboard in the local opticians’; through community breakfasts; using shopfronts; etc. Possilpark has been designated as a Business Improvement District; traders could contribute by helping to get information to their customers.

Margaret added that they have been trying out different approaches, while recognizing that not everything will work. The Chatty Café, for instance, was not a success, perhaps because of the timing or the venue.

Fiona Herriot is still involved with the Fire Dog project, and is now working with schools to raise funds for a commemoration of Wallace. The idea is to put up a small statue near Ingram Street Fire Station (a Greyfriars Bobby for Glasgow!).

Kevin Gilchrist from Highballs Low works with nurseries, schools and care homes, and has been working to bring the two generations together to improve everyone’s health and wellbeing. The impact is mutually beneficial; and very powerful.

There was general agreement that we should be working towards multi-generational activity, including, for instance, young mums. It would also make sense to include such practice as an integral part of the school curriculum.

Charlie Murphy from Age Scotland suggested that, instead of asking people what the matter is, we should ask ‘What matters to you?’. He acknowledged that a loss of confidence in social settings often made it difficult for people to take part in activities. The Craft Cafes in Castlemilk and Govan, and Men’s Sheds are the kind of spaces where people can come together and take things at their own pace.

The Intergenerational National Network’s next event is on the 5th September in Dunblane, talking about: How to create an intergenerational dementia friendly community; the challenges and lessons learnt

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