11 September 2018

A project launched earlier this year in collaboration with St Osmund’s Church in Derby aims to challenge stereotypical views in the local community.

‘All Ages Together’ (AAT) aims to bring people together who wouldn’t ordinarily meet, for fun and friendship and in the process to build bridges across the age divide. Similarly to our monthly free Community Meals, this project facilitates the coming together of different demographics, helping to combat loneliness and isolation for both younger and older generations.

AAT has its roots in the desire of residents to challenge stereotypical views of young people. In 2017, Katrina, chairwoman of SOLID (YMCA Derbyshire’s resident committee) together with the Head of Health and Wellbeing, applied for and won a grant from Toyota, which was to be used to develop positive ‘intergenerational’ relationships within the community.

In February 2018, AAT was launched in partnership with St Osmund’s Church and has so far met 6 times (with a number of events already planned for the autumn) involving approximately 25-30 older people and 20 YMCA volunteers. The project is led by Katrina and Rev. Cath Hollywell, a priest in the local community and a chaplain at YMCA Derbyshire. All of the events are purposely organised and led in a way that facilitates people of different ages getting to know one other, otherwise the different age groups – because of understandable social constraints – would inevitably sit with each other.

When asked was the AAT valuable and if so, why? Participants responded with overwhelming positivity:

“The AAT project gives us all young and old, an opportunity and a place to come and get to know each other whilst doing something together. It’s difficult to meet young people otherwise. We have a big problem with social isolation amongst older people in our local community. Coming together in this way gets people out of the house! It helps with depression and building confidence. I also had no idea that young people can suffer social isolation too.” Susan, 74

“I’ll never forget how they carried our chairs around the allotment and made sure we were alright. I think the fun we are having and the conversations mean changes have happened subtly just by being together. WE are being changed.” Joyce, 82

Instead of the younger people at the YMCA having a fixed, stereotypical idea about the ‘OG’s’ (the affectionate term they now use for the older generation) they are able to see people instead. It’s the same in the other direction. As a result of this, a group of ‘OG’s’ now meet in the YMCA Derbyshire café twice a month to pray for residents by name – then share lunch together. The All Ages Together project encourages and reinforces a very simple but radical idea… There is no ‘Them’, there is only ‘Us’.

As of 11 September, the ‘All Ages Together Project’ has been shortlisted to receive a Foyer Federation ‘Spark Award’ in the ‘Innovation Award’ category.