Age is just a number, right? People of all ages enjoy connection – we can sing, cook, grow, laugh, learn, plan and enjoy a whole host of things together. When people in extra care met with the children from nursery, primary and high schools’ connection and a focus on shared interests was the goal. Yes, we did think of how things could be made age appropriate, but we also thought about how both small and big people could contribute and feel valued.
But when we went into lockdown, connecting people became more of a challenge, with social distancing and COVID safe environments being of utmost importance. Indeed, all of the connections we had made with schools began as a wish, part of a purpose for someone’s Circle. So those links with the schools were part of the very fabric of what mattered most to people. From watching and being part of these times together we saw how children brought a constant curiosity and the adults, a blossoming exploration of youth and experience. And that buzz and excitement present when they were together hung in the air long after they parted. How could we continue to keep a spark of connection during lockdown, considering that age was not the barrier?
So, thinking about what we could do, working on shared interests and contribution, we began reaching out to schools and settings. We introduced organisations who encouraged more traditional ways of connecting such as pen pal schemes, where schools and settings could share common interests in an envelope. We had planned an intergenerational cook, grow and eat project for the spring and had great links with a local gardening nursery, who delivered us free sunflower seeds, pots and compost so everyone could share their growing progress via letters and photographs.
The strength of the integrational bonds we had started to weave were still there and schools started to contact us back to ask about reconnecting with the settings. Pre-COVID, we had held a no bake, baking day with the local nursery children where we had made cornflake cakes together, which had been one huge, messy, chocolaty hit! So, knowing how enjoyable this time had been for all involved, that nursery reached out to us and asked if they could deliver their left-over Easter eggs to people so they could make cakes with the surplus chocolate. A local high school with whom we had planned theatre performances, cooking and gardening asked if they could bring across Xmas cards and decorations to spread some festive cheer, and a primary school with whom we had previously chosen and sung favourite songs together, wanted to connect via Zoom to share their festive messages and songs.
So, for almost 12 months we have been unable to unite in person, but with spirit and determination and a want by all involved to continue to focus on meaningful connection, we continue to share parts of our lives with others. Age is still just a number and it’s the things that matter that truly bond us even in times of great change.