The magic of intergenerational practice

A conversation about the Intergenerational National Network

For Intergenerational Week 2021 I talked to Pat Scrutton, who co-ordinates the Intergenerational National Network in Scotland (and sometimes beyond)!

Hello Pat, I hope you’re having a nice sunny start to the week! My first question is how did you become interested in intergenerational practices?

Hello Leon, Yes, it actually felt like spring this morning!

In 1997, I was working with a group of older people in South Lanarkshire. They were aware that a lot of young people were being served with Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). They believed that the real problem was that the young people didn’t have enough interesting things to do, and wanted to know what they could do to help. We obtained funding from Strathclyde Police to commission a community film company to work with a group of high school pupils and some local older people to create a film about community safety. Together, they learned all the skills, from storyboarding, through scriptwriting, directing, costumes and continuity to camerawork. It worked wonderfully, and I was hooked!

That’s really interesting – it’s lovely to hear that the group’s impulse was to listen and work together when they noticed young people were in an unfair situation. What do you think is valuable about working together and building connections with people of different ages?

Many people talk about and value the relationships they have or had with grandparents. Others talk about a time when, for instance, everyone living in a tenement block would look out for each others’ weans. For many people living in small rural communities, that sense of everyone knowing and supporting each other is still real, but, particularly in urban areas, we are working to recreate these relationships and this sense of community. Sometimes it is helpful to work separately with each group first, to explore their preconceptions, prejudices, etc. Then the trick is to find something they are going to enjoy doing together. That is when the magic happens!

I love that idea of doing something fun and meaningful, alongside addressing preconceptions, as part of the magic of multi-generational community. What do you most enjoy about co-ordinating the Network?

I established the Network while I was still in gainful employment, and enjoyed it so much that I continued to co-ordinate it when I retired 12 years ago. What I love about it is the way that it brings together people from across a wide range of sectors, backgrounds and interests. And the best thing of all is the wonderfully rich conversations that result.

I first learned about inter-generational community practices through Outside the Box’s Rural Wisdom project, so I know not everyone has heard of them. What’s one thing everyone should know about intergenerational practices?

Historically, intergenerational practice has been seen as a way of resolving potential conflicts between children and young people and older people. However, we are increasingly thinking about bringing people together across all generations, i.e. multi- or cross-generational working, and about creating communities which work for everyone throughout their life course.

How does intergenerational work connect to equalities and inequalities?

That is a really good question, and one we are grappling with at the moment. The Intergenerational National Network is open to anyone and everyone with an interest in working across generations. Because it has grown organically, we have not, until recently, really thought about how we address this. We recently began a conversation about how the network can tie in with and support communities and organisations working to address racial and other inequalities. We would love to hear from anyone who can help us make the Network as inclusive and diverse as it can be!

How to get involved in the Network

Find out more on the Intergenerational National Network’s webpage, or email to get the Zoom links for upcoming meetings, become a member or host a meet-up.

Upcoming Network meetings

The next meeting will take place on 13 April from 10.30 to 12.30. (Please note this is a change of date from 15 March.) Jennifer Challinor will host the meeting at the Crichton Trust, and we will hear about their plans for a care campus, and also about the ambitious plans the Midsteeple Quarter have in place for regenerating Dumfries Town Centre. We are working on a more detailed agenda, and will send this out soon.
Then on 9 June from 10.30 to 12.30 Petra Biberbach from PAS (Planning Aid Scotland) will host us. She will talk about ‘How to make multi-generational activities and living part of the well-being economy’. Judy Crabb and Rodney Matthews will tell us about ‘Heart of Newhaven: the story of a community asset transfer’; and we are also hoping to have someone to speak about co-housing.