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The Generation Game: Intergenerational Living

Gina Narramore

Gina Narramore



The McCarthy & Stone intergenerational living project encourages customers to spend time with children from their local primary school. 

There’s a great deal of research showing the huge benefits of older generations regularly spending time with children and the wider advantages of intergenerational living within our communities. 

Just spending a couple of hours a week with a five-year-old could be beneficial for your mental and physical health and wellbeing, while helping to build the futures of the local children.

By volunteering time to sprinkle your years of wisdom on eager-to-learn children, and by giving them extra attention and support they may not get at home, you could enjoy the benefits of improved mobility and fewer falls, perform better on cognitive tests, improve memory loss and, by leading a more active lifestyle, burn more calories too.

For customers at our Wingfield Court development in the Dorset market town of Sherborne, the health benefits are just an addition to the joys of spending a few hours a week with the enthusiastic and full of life infant (Key Stage 1) children at their local primary school. 

The Year 1 and 2 children from Sherborne Abbey CE VC Primary School - perfectly situated on the same road as the development - have been enjoying reading to the customers when they visit on a weekly or fortnightly basis. 

Grandmother, vocal coach and customer Shelia Harman moved to Sherborne four years ago, attracted by the town’s Abbey and sense of community. She believes the more we can give to the local society the more everyone, including ourselves, will get out of it.

“Being involved in music all my life I find it very exciting, stimulating and inspiring when you can encourage younger generations. 

Having grandchildren of my own, I have already been through this process and understand the importance of taking the time to sit down and help them read and learn.”

With over 40 years’ experience teaching music, Sheila is passionate about keeping creative subjects alive in schools today and will be assisting the school’s Music Coordinator when she can as it’s such a joy seeing and hearing children sing.

For customer Jo Vincent it feels very natural to go back in to a school environment. Jo taught for over 30 years from ages 5 right up to 21-year-olds in both the public and private sector, it has been more than a career but a hobby too. 

The intergenerational project opens doors to new opportunities for me to learn from young children while teaching them too.

Hearing about the McCarthy & Stone’s intergenerational project, Jo was eager to join the group feeling very privileged to be given the opportunity to meet local children three generations after her own childhood.

Jo says: “Every generation has a different mindset, a different history. The intergenerational project opens doors to new opportunities for me to learn from the current generation of young children while teaching them too.” 

As a past teacher of English and literacy, Jo takes much pleasure from her time with the Sherborne children championing if they can read, the world is open.

Customers among other volunteers are an invaluable resource to the school, especially for the younger year groups where learning 1:1 and in small groups is of upmost importance to a child’s educational and personal development.

The school’s headteacher, Mrs Kampf says: “Our children really enjoy reading and chatting to our volunteers, in particular in the early years where the children (and the teachers!) welcome the extra support. It is a wonderful way to introduce members of the community into our school and bring everyone together.”

Welcoming volunteers for many years, 86-year old Mrs Mellar is a wonderful advocate, and she beams with the benefits of spending time with children. She has dedicated three mornings a week for over 18 years to the school, where today she reads with some children whose parents once read to her! A much loved and renowned member within the local community, volunteering not only gets her up and moving around, but also affords her the pleasure of giving others the attention they may need. 

Over the next academic year, the customers are excited for some of the children to visit Wingfield Court. The communal lounge provides a lovely space for the customers to teach the children something new outside of the classroom such as knitting or gardening, while extending the project to other customers. 

Keen crafter Olive Lewis says: “The children are at a lovely, interesting and enquiring age so being able to welcome them to Wingfield Court to teach them something we were once taught such as knitting would be lovely.”

Situated just five hundred yards apart, the project has brought together two different generations whose paths might have crossed but who wouldn’t necessarily interact with each other in a meaningful way. Today, the children, school and customers can all enjoy the personal benefits of their new-found friendships. 

It is a wonderful way to introduce members of the community into our school and bring everyone together.

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