June 1 is Intergenerational Day, celebrated in Canada since 2010*. Last year, it was officially declared in Ottawa (for the first time) by Mayor Jim Watson, thanks to the efforts of iGen Ottawa. Intergenerational Day celebrates the richness of intergenerational relationships. It encourages connections between people of different age groups to reduce loneliness and social isolation, and encourages age-friendly communities.
As an organization with two long-term care homes that on any given day is serving over 1000 older adults, our Ottawa host centre Bruyère is happy to be participating in Intergenerational Day 2020. And this year, as we adjust to the new norm of physical distancing, the opportunity for social connection is more important than ever.
“Bringing older and younger people together provides the opportunity to build connections and strengthen communities. I have seen personally many times the significant joy that young children bring to older adults – it is beautiful to witness!” says Michelle Fleming, knowledge broker at the Ontario CLRI at Bruyère. “In an effort to improve quality of life for residents, many long-term care homes across Ontario have regular opportunities for intergenerational connections – through things like music programs with children and residents together, high school volunteers spending time one-on-one with residents and pen-pal programs. Prior to the pandemic, the team at Bruyère’s Saint-Louis Residence in Orleans had been in dialogue with iGen Ottawa about the development of an intergenerational garden. The vision was a grassroots initiative, involving children from local schools. We remain hopeful that this initiative will still be possible in the future. Initiatives bringing the generations together offer promise in reducing loneliness and social isolation across our communities.”
As a resource for long-term care homes, the Ontario CLRI at Bruyère has developed a resource summarizing some of the creative ways that long-term care homes can continue intergenerational initiatives while respecting physical distancing.
Some of these creative initiatives are being rolled out at Bruyère:
- Residents at Bruyère’s long-term care homes have been delighted by art made by community children. This art has been posted throughout the homes, provided to residents, put on place mats for resident’s meal trays, and made into banners at the main entrances of each of Bruyère’s campuses. Thank you to two local groups of kids – World Changing Kids and Kid Art with Heart – for brightening peoples’ day with the colourful art.
- Before the pandemic, the team at Bruyère’s Saint-Louis Residence, in collaboration with iGen Ottawa, was developing plans for an intergenerational garden. The garden will bring together children and older adults in an inclusive space to learn and grow. Until we can meet physically, community children have placed painted rocks with messages of hope and encouragement in a ‘Gratitude Garden’ that graces the front entrance of the care home. This rock garden is just the beginning of our Intergenerational Garden and we look forward to seeing it grow in the years ahead.
We all have basic human needs to connect with other people and the COVID19 pandemic has reminded us of just how critical that need is. Creative strategies are needed to help keep our generations connected. Initiatives that bring generations together help to reduce loneliness and social isolation across our communities.
On this Intergenerational Day, we encourage you to explore what’s happening in your own community and see if there is an organization that is already working to support residents living in long-term care homes. Take the time to connect with the people in your life of all different ages. Paint some rocks and bring them to a local care home. These ‘little’ acts of kindness strengthen our communities and long-term care homes.
*IGen day has been celebrated in Canada since 2010 and was founded by i2i Intergenerational Society and five Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) funded student groups from Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.