When you no longer live in your original home what can make your new environment feel like that home once more? This was not one of the questions I had at the forefront of my mind when I visited Hourigan House today to gain feedback on the intergenerational sessions that regularly take place there. But as I discovered there appears to be a very simple equation that may lead people to experience comparable feelings.
I was lucky enough to be invited to chat with a wonderful group of people, ladies and a gent, all of whom were keen to talk to me about the aforementioned school visits. After the team at Hourigan House reached out to Westleigh High school around 6 months ago, the children began to visit and now come once a fortnight. They bring with them an array of games to play with the people resident at the home, including dominoes. They told me that the children don’t always play the game of dominoes as intended but instead line them up so they all fall when encouraged with the touch of a finger, they fall like, well, dominoes! This recollection brought about a little reminiscence, a memory of home with their families and of how they had showed their own children how to line up the dominoes to make them fall in sequence. However, the children bring much more than games and the residents added their memories from previous get togethers. They told me fondly of how when the children visit “they run in” and “their coats are off in no time”, demonstrating the children’s enthusiasm to visit. This is echoed by feedback from the teachers who told the team of how the children love to visit. Individuals added that “the children want to know all about us. They are interested in our lives and they can’t believe we left school when we were just 14”.
Michelle, the home’s activities coordinator added that there are people who engage in few other activities during the week but will always be present when the school children are. Our one gent who had joined us added that as he walked down the street close to Hourigan House one day, he could see five teenagers filling the pathway where he was headed. However, he added that because those children had visited the home, they recognised him and started to chat with him, showing that the bonds being formed within the walls of the home are indeed extending beyond.
People recalled their own school lives and our gent told of how the children had given him a poetry book used for their exam prep; the group added that education appears to be much harder now than it was when they were pupils. We chatted about how school memories could be shared in future sessions and all agreed that hosting a ‘Back to School Day’ would be a good idea.
People told of how interested the children had been in their working lives and how they worked at various places including local mills, in food production and retail. One lady talked of her experiences of life bringing up her young family who quickly grew into teenagers; she recalled how having teens visit Hourigan, make her, in her words, “feel like I am home again”. This sentiment was met by a sea of nodding heads, all nodding in agreement. This was mirrored with an obvious sadness when the children leave with people telling of how this time always brings feelings of disappointment, that they cannot stay longer or visit more frequently.
So, following my visit to Hourigan House today, I would agree with this lovely lady that the intergenerational get togethers do indeed invoke feelings of home. There is a warmth shared when these two generations meet, a coming together of different minds that soon blend to align though shared and differing experiences of life. There are feelings of excitement at inception and those of loss upon parting. There are bonds forming that extend beyond the physicality of walls, with doors opening to accommodate possibility. Home is where the heart is, and heart is at the centre each of these meetings.