On Wednesday 6th September, MSPs debated the importance of intergenerational volunteering and collaboration. Intergenerational volunteering is when young and older people volunteer to get together, taking part in activities, programmes and projects. It is well recognised as having a mutually beneficial impact on each generation, in particular, reducing isolation amongst older people and resulting in a renewed sense of worth.

MSPs also praised the work of the national charity, Generations Working Together, which provides information, delivers support, and encourages involvement to benefit all of Scotland’s generations, by working, learning, volunteering and living together.

Speaking in the debate, SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, took the opportunity to highlight the inspiring work of Anam Cara, a dementia respite centre in North Ayrshire. The centre strongly recognises the positive impact that inter-generational activities have on the well-being of their guests – and has forged strong links with local schools.

For example, St Bridget’s nursery school and St Bridget’s primary school attend on alternate Thursdays. Affectionately referred to as Anam Cara’s ‘wee pals’, they are very popular with the guests – many of them even book particular dates for respite to coincide with when the wee ones come in. The guests and the children share their favourite songs and games, as well as carrying out joint craft works and holding events such as teddy bears picnics and Burns poetry competitions.

In addition, Anam Cara also welcomes sixth year volunteers who are completing their Youth Philanthropy Initiative, Duke of Edinburgh candidates, and Modern Apprenctices. These older children are given the opportunity to undertake dementia training, allowing them to develop insight into, and empathy for, the lives of those with dementia. Two previous sixth year volunteers used this knowledge in their university applications and are now studying medicine.

Commenting after the debate, Ruth said:

“Anam Cara’s rich and diverse inter-generational projects underline the mutual benefits to the children and the guests of working together and how it enhances their health and well-being.

Guests consistently say that their time with the children brightens their day and leaves them with a deep sense of happiness. These simple remarks speak volumes of the mutual value and happiness of intergenerational friendship and collaboration, and I commend the work.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to highlight the exemplary work of Anam Cara in the Scottish Parliament, and wish them every continued success for the future.”

Claire Mills, Manager of Anam Cara, added:

“People may think it’s only games but the outcomes provide social contact that our guests tell us they have been missing. Guests say it allows them to make a contribution to the children’s lives and boosts their confidence and morale. They also say how meaningful it is to them. Our staff see a significant reduction in negative symptoms and improvement in motor skills and eye balance co-ordination.”