A new concept in old people's homes in France. The idea is simple, but revolutionary: combining a residential home for the elderly with a crèche/nursery school in the same building.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercise.

Being old is when you know all the answers, but nobody asks you the questions. (Anonymous)

Six months before she died, my grandmother moved into an old people's home and I visited her there when I was in Britain. She was sitting in the living room with about 15 other residents, mostly women, half of them asleep. The room was clean and warm, with flowers and pictures, and the care assistants were kind and cheerful. The Weakest Link was on the television ('to keep their brains active,' one of the assistants said), and the only other sound was snoring and embarrassing digestive noises. People only moved when they needed to be helped to the bathroom. It was depressing. Gran talked a lot about how much she missed seeing her grandchildren (my nieces, aged 7 and 5), but I knew from my sister that they hated going to visit her there and, to be perfectly honest, I couldn't wait to get away myself.

So I was interested to read a newspaper article about a new concept in old people's homes in France. The idea is simple, but revolutionary: combining a residential home for the elderly with a crèche/nursery school in the same building. The children and the residents eat lunch together and share activities such as music, painting, gardening and caring for the pets which the residents are encouraged to keep. In the afternoons, the residents enjoy reading or telling stories to the children and, if a child is feeling sad or tired, there is always a kind lap to sit on and a cuddle. There are trips out and birthday parties too.

The advantages are enormous for everyone concerned. The children are happy because they get a lot more individual attention and respond well because someone has time for them. They also learn that old people are not different or frightening in any way. And of course, they see illness and death and learn to accept them. The residents are happy because they feel useful and needed. They are more active and more interested in life when the children are around and they take more interest in their appearance too. And the staff are happy because they see an improvement in the physical and psychological health of the residents and have an army of assistants to help with the children.

Nowadays there is less and less contact between the old and the young. There are many reasons for this, including the breakdown of the extended family, working parents with no time to care for ageing relations, families that have moved away and smaller flats with no room for grandparents. But the result is the same: increasing numbers of children without grandparents and old people who have no contact with children. And more old people who are lonely and feel useless, along with more and more families with young children who desperately need more support. It's a major problem in many societies.

That's why intergenerational programmes, designed to bring the old and the young together, are growing in popularity all over the world, supported by UNESCO and other local and international organisations. There are examples of successful initiatives all over the world. Using young people to teach IT skills to older people is one obvious example. Using old people as volunteer assistants in schools is another, perhaps reading with children who need extra attention. There are schemes which involve older people visiting families who are having problems, maybe looking after the children for a while to give the tired mother a break. Or 'adopt a grandparent' schemes in which children write letters or visit a lonely old person in their area. There are even holiday companies that specialise in holidays for children and grandparents together. One successful scheme in London pairs young volunteers with old people who are losing their sight. The young people help with practical things such as writing letters, reading bank statements and helping with shopping, and the older people can pass on their knowledge and experience to their young visitors. For example, a retired judge may be paired with a teenager who wants to study law. Lasting friendships often develop.

But it isn't only the individuals concerned who gain from intergenerational activities. The advantages to society are enormous too. If older people can understand and accept the youth of today, and vice versa, there will be less conflict in a community. In a world where the number of old people is increasing, we need as much understanding and tolerance as possible. Modern Western society has isolated people into age groups and now we need to rediscover what 'community' really means. And we can use the strengths of one generation to help another. Then perhaps getting old won't be such a depressing prospect after all.

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Comments

the thing that make me crazy , that in the poor country (like in africa or arabic country) the problem of the old people is not so important because in these country the old people have a very important role and place in the society despite the difficult economic conditions because the culture and the tradition of these country give a lot of respect for the old people , but in the rich country around the world old people have a lot of problems despite all the possibilities of these countries, it is really a big mystery

I tottaly agree with it .
None of the two societies is perfect, that's a nonending dilemma .

We're being almost ruled by our edged people who see their experience make them perfectly sufficient for such a mission and for controlling each and everything in the country, without allowing the young people to even take a chance to introduce their creative and constructive ideas and points of view .

While if both cooperated we take the the advantage of the creativity and the experience !

The idea is very good. Sometimes we hear politics talking about that, but when the election are passed nobody remember what they had promised. Unfortunately it is quite rare to find old people's homes so well organised as described. I completely agree the concept old people can help children and children can be helped by elderly. Also parents would be benefit freeing their time with some hours of this type of baby-sitting.

This is truly a great idea and good learning for developing country like Vietnam. On the way of integration, Vietnam has adapted and adopted many Western styles in which both negative and positive one, especially the young generation. It is quite sad that the family tradition and value seems to get less important to the youth now. The goodness is that they love to be independent and to be challenged in order to prove their capacity and competency, but its shadow is they live distance to their grandparents and/or they family.The less communication between generations and generations they have, the more isolated and lonely they are both suffered too.

In my country_Vietnam, we pay much respect for our grandparents as well as old people. We have been taught that old people worked so hard to build up, to protect our country, to take care, to educate and to give love for the young. Therefor, they are deserved to be loved and taken care of. In family, grandparents love their children and vice versa. However, there exist new problems in Vietnamese family nowaday and old people's home become more populated than before, which is an unhappy change.

What a nice idea, as a young mum I always feel lack of patience to look after and teach my baby, but I recognized that my parents were much more patient in playing and teaching him. Unfortunately, we didn't live together. So, it will be great if my baby kindergarten is in the same building with a old people's home, he can play and learn from other grandparents. Thank you author for such a useful article. 

When I was a child I spent every holidays with my grandparents. Now my grandfather is dead but I visit my grandmother sometimes. I visit my second grandmother and grandfather from time to time too.

I really liked this one! I remembered me of my great-grandmother. I should see her more often. Makes me a bit sad

that is good idea for old people. especially alone without family and can not take care yourself. they need the help of young people and social services. but in our country we love big-family.
i mean many generation live together in a house. they want to see grandchild every day. expecting illness old people. we are hoping have some volunteer organizations come to help them on the world.

That was a  very impressive and brilliant idea ,being able to cut the bridges between generations and enabling  the elderly of taking their right part in the community are quite difficult challenge, but taking that simple yet amazing concept into consideration would make it very easy and accessible solution for problems of both children and elderly people .
If France follows that concept practically ,I wish I were French!

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