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.

Discussion

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Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

I find this article very interesting, because my mother is getting old and we've got problems to look after her.  I don't like old people's homes because it's really depressing to see old people living without seeing their families. In my opinion it's a good idea that old people and children live together because children offer happiness to old people. Besides children receive knowledge and experiences from the old.

This is a very interesting topic. It also makes a very nice listening/reading material for teaching English. Problem is, how come every time I right-click to download the audio to my PC, it always ends up being not playable??? Can anyone help?
Anyway, great stuffs British Council. I know I won't regret registering as a member :)
Cheers

 After I've read this, I think about my mom, now she's not here with me. she's in my hometown at a province. Now I'm staying in city as a second year student. I really miss her, but I never say this word to her till now. I dont know why. I always visit her once a week. I think about the day she became an old lady, the day she became a grandmother, you know! I won't let her feeling lonely in the future. I'll take care of her like what she does to me. I promised to myself. 
This article is really great. thanks

hi everyone!
it is a very intersting article. Although many agree or desagree, i firmly belive that things have been changing lately. Young people do not want to share with grandparents since as sb said before  children get bored!
i think it will all depend on the grandmother or grandfather. Old people have their own characteristics and some of them just want to be on their own. In peace. That means no children moving around and vice versa children do not want grandparents telling them off all day long.
well, that is my opinion. In conclusion i feel that both generations are totally different and they need their own places. Grandparents and children are not a good combination. Maybe it did not have a good experience with my grandmother though i still miss her a lot!

 I'm looking to the subject from another angle, because our community totally different comparing to modern western countries.
Really I'm surprising to deal with our parents in this way, after long years of caring from my parents to me from childhood up to be independent person then easily I don't find time and place to care them in this age.
Really it is shame.
Instead of put them in old people's homes, we have to let them to live with us a decent life with full care and governments have to encourage people to do that and support them such as provide them with wide house for all family members.
This idea will reduce expenses on old people's homes and donate comfortable feeling for old people.
Old people's homes should be only for old people have no relatives from 1st degree alive.
If we implement these principles in education process, our children will grow in this culture and with accepting for this concepts.
 
 

The article is very interesting,the parents must obligation to  teach their children about elder age.The better way is in early  age permiting share together to build strong chains  between  ages generation.

The article leads us to reflection about one of the main problems our society is having nowadays, namely, what to do with old people.  I come from Chile, a southamerican country and we are facing the  issue too.  I am a mother of two teenagers and they are reluctant to visit their grandmothers, who live in their own houses, because they get " bored",  they say and it is difficult for me to carry them as when they were children.  So the French idea seems to be a very good way to get the situation over and another one is make people, especially youngsters,  aware of the importance of all relationships.
From my point of view, it is an interesting article.

The article is simple and understandable for the beginner too. Instructions before listening the article are very important.They make us understand the article easily.Thanks for providing such a nice way of learning english.

 
In my countre situation is very diferent. For example, my mother is still part of my life and part of life my 5 years daughter. They spending time together every afternoon. In my countre people work till 70 , even 80 year. They have cows or other animals;doctors after ritaired worcs in a private practis. In home for old are only old people who are very sic or dement . But that idea is very good, for other countries who need that aprouch

Hi, it's really a very nice idea to live together the kids and the grandparents. I agree with the authors that it's not only the money that you gain. It's more.

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