Intergenerational lessons from the (home education) classroom

I’m probably going to put myself into a very small group of parents with my opening comment for this blog, but I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to home school our daughter. Whilst I know many parents have struggled immensely during this lockdown with home education, and I do not in any way belittle their experiences, for me the chance to teach our daughter her lessons has – overall – been an amazing learning curve for both of us.

It’s had its trials and tribulations of course. I’ve learnt a lot about her and she’s learnt a lot about me. Alongside being incredibly insightful though, it’s also been a great privilege. After all, what is more worthwhile than educating your child?

 

An assembly about music and dementia

But what, you might wonder, has this got to do with a blog about dementia? Well, earlier this month one of the whole school assemblies that we tune into via Zoom focused on music, and how it can help with creativity, wellbeing and so much more.

To illustrate this point, our daughter’s headteacher shared the story of Nick and Paul Harvey, a father and son. Paul is living with dementia, and Nick challenged him to improvise a piece of music with only four notes.

The resulting film that Nick posted on twitter became a social media hit, and Nick and Paul’s story was picked up by TV and radio stations, including Good Morning Britain.

It’s a truly lovely example of how a father and son connect through music despite the effects of dementia, what a person with dementia can do (when so many people with dementia are written-off), and the power of the creative arts to inspire us all.

Via our Zoom assembly the Good Morning Britain film couldn’t be played in its entirety due to connection issues, but our daughter was very struck by it and asked to watch it afterwards. This gave me the opportunity to explain a bit more to her about my dad’s dementia. It’s a topic we’ve spoken about before, but having it introduced again by her headteacher gave our conversation added impetus.

 

Connecting the generations

I believe it is vitally important that our schools and nurseries become more connected with care homes and other places that older people access, albeit that is only possible in a virtual way at the moment. There have, of course, been some fantastic examples of this in the past, including the one I wrote about in this blog, ‘Bringing the generations together’.

8-14 March 2021 will mark National Intergenerational Week, and there are some lovely opportunities for older and younger generations to connect throughout that week of activities. This is one example from The Together Project – ‘Virtual Songs and Smiles’. What’s not to love when you read an opening statement like this one from The Together Project:

“We sing, move, play, make friends and have lots of fun!”

Isn’t that what life should be all about, and never more so than in the awful times of living through the coronavirus pandemic? Yet even in the midst of the pandemic I’ve seen unhelpful comparisons being made between young and old, with narratives about damaging children’s future life chances to keep older people safe with lockdowns.

 

Working together

Surely now, more than ever, it is a time to work together. I have always firmly believed that older people and younger people can both teach each other so much, and I am certainly testimony to that with my dad. Everything I learnt from his dementia has gone into helping others be they young, old or any age in-between.

As we think ahead to National Intergenerational Week and how, as lockdown is gradually eased over the coming months, we can heal the epidemic of mental health problems, I believe much of the answer for both younger and older people lies in more connectivity between those generations, however that is facilitated.

I, for one, was hugely impressed with our daughter’s school highlighting Nick and Paul’s story, and our daughter’s headteacher sensitively explaining to the children about dementia. My hope is that all children may have the opportunity to connect with older generations on a more meaningful level in the future, that they may understand about ageing and some of the health problems associated with it, and find both compassion and joy (because there is a lot of joy in stories like Nick and Paul’s) to give them and all of us a bit more hope. If Captain Sir Tom Moore’s heroics taught us anything it is surely that our older generations still have much to give, and can inspire the youngest in our country to strive to make tomorrow a good day.

Until next time…

You can follow me on Twitter: @bethyb1886
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