In 2018, 10 tiny children were unleashed on residents of Nottingham’s Lark Hill, the largest retirement village in the UK.
No need to be alarmed: the participants - ranging in age from 3 to 102 - were willingly part of the experiment, volunteering to take part in an intergenerational programme designed to help young and old overcome some of the vulnerabilities associated with age - friendship, mobility, confidence, and memory.
This was the second season of “Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds”, where the first experiment took place in Bristol.
It was the show that captured the world’s collective heart, as vivacious little poppets won over even the most skeptical residents.
Lina overcame the fog of loneliness when the children chose her to help them with a game.
Retired geologist David left the room he occupied since widowhood to show the children a garden full of fluttering birds.
Even grumpy Hamish was playing Sleeping Lions and roaring along with the children.
It’s a format that delights viewers, with the format sold to broadcast channels in France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Israel and Germany.
There is a deliberate scientific method behind the process. Before and after, researchers examine both the older adult and preschool participants. There was clear evidence that these connections vastly improved the older participants’ mental and physical health - how fast they can stand up, walk, bend down, recall details, and how a self-examination of their wellbeing.
And most strikingly, the programme improved the kids’ cognitive and emotional development. Language skills, patience and empathy were among the most critical skills honed through the ongoing interaction with the older residents.
This is what excites us most about the project.
It is firm proof of our north star at sĀge - intergenerational experiences don’t just give a warm and fuzzy feeling. Both sides have so much to learn and gain from that interaction.