Adapting to lockdown
Generations Working Together has over 3,200 members and as the lockdown began, we were forced to consider ways in which we could continue supporting our members and followers.
We are an intergenerational centre of excellence and a national charity with networks that span the whole of Scotland, with the core aim is to fight ageism through intergenerational practice, but lockdown brought a hold load of new challenges. We saw schools, youth groups, community organisations and care homes closing, with many of our members being put on furlough. Many intergenerational connections and initiatives stopped and we were unable to visit intergenerational projects or to deliver any face to face training or network meetings.
But we quickly realised that although things had changed dramatically, there were steps we could take to adapt and support our members.
We want to understand what you’re thinking about virtual events and returning to in-person events, so we launched a pulse survey. You can take part in the latest survey here
First, we decided that although face to face meetings could not take place, it was still important to encourage others to facilitate intergenerational connections online. Coronavirus and the impact of lockdown had the potential to increase the loneliness and isolation already experienced by many in our society. We have encouraged communities to adapt in any way they can connect, sustain and develop intergenerational relationships. Some great examples of innovative practice have emerged. They have included online art classes, tea breaks on zoom, and chair travelling where younger and older people make virtual visits to museums and galleries together while apart. These activities have all generated spread positivity and the feeling of togetherness between people of all ages.
Secondly, we ensured that we still celebrated important days and campaigned for our cause during the pandemic. This work includes creating social media posts around the intergenerational week in March and doing a Q&A on Facebook live in April for the European Day of Solidarity Between Generations which takes place every year on the 29th of April. Doing this has helped us to make new international connections and has brought new followers and members to our online platforms.
We decided to stay connected to our members by moving intergenerational network meetings and training programmes online. The meetings still take place as scheduled using Zoom, enabling people from each area to maintain contact, share practice and support each other. We thought that it was vital to sustain engagement with our members. The online engagement also assisted local people to organise for volunteering and intergenerational projects in response to the pandemic. Our “face-to-face” training courses are currently being adapted for online delivery and will be available on our website from August. While there are still many digital inequalities and technology learning gaps, we have found that using a program as simple as Zoom can be very inclusive once the initial access is mastered. We have learned important lessons on how online support and delivery can enhance our work and membership offer as we move beyond the COVID emergency.
We have increased the amount of positive and inspiring content that we published on our website and social media. This content has been created in response to feedback from our members and followers indicating that they wanted to read positive and motivating stories amongst all of the coronavirus news. We would encourage every organisation to do this. We need to talk about coronavirus, how we are coping and how need to plan events and activities on topics that will lift our spirits and help to keep us positive in challenging times.
Finally, we have secured funding to help us join the coronavirus relief and recovery effort. We used our expertise in connecting communities to create intergenerational training, support care homes, and create an intergenerational activity directory for people to use during the pandemic. The directory includes safety tips, online resources, and ideas for connecting generations. The directory can be accessed on our website. Please note that this is available to members only, but is it free to join as a member for anyone based in Scotland. This work was made possible by Scottish Government funding, which enabled us to temporarily expand our staff team.
While coronavirus has been difficult for everyone, we have realised that there were many things we can do and have used this time for change and development. This included publishing our new corporate plan which calls for an intergenerational nation. We have realised that COVID-19 has raised feelings of loneliness and isolation and feel that a connected, intergenerational nation will be needed more than ever. We have all realised that we are only as strong as our communities. We hope that this realisation and lasts beyond the pandemic and drives future policy and practice.
Kate Samuels is Communications and Policy Officer for Generations Working Together