NICCY celebrates Intergenerational Week
The NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma and the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI), Eddie Lynch partnered up to acknowledge and celebrate Intergenerational Week, 8-14 March 2021.
Here’s what they had to say:
National Intergenerational Week encourages intergenerational activity connecting young with old. Opportunities for generations to connect are vital and will become even more important as we emerge from the current pandemic!
“This past year has been extremely challenging and full of uncertainly for many of us and non-more so than for our children and our older people. Children and young people have lost out on so many of the normal childhood experiences that help them grow and develop as individuals, with interruptions to schooling and restrictions on social interaction with friends and family all impacting on their mental health and wellbeing. Thankfully with light now at the end of the tunnel there is an opportunity to build on the shared experiences of young and old, so that together we can work to strengthen links between and within our communities.” Koulla Yiasouma
NICCY and COPNI’s initiative paired older and younger people together, facilitating conversations about their experiences during COVID, focusing particularly on social isolation, whether they could access reliable, easy to understand information, and whether they felt they were listened to in decisions affecting them during the pandemic. They also explored any positives coming out of the Covid restrictions.
Four conversations were facilitated between young people from the NICCY Youth Panel and older people connected to COPNI.
Many common themes were discovered during the conversations such as:
- Everyone was missing seeing and visiting their friends, remote contact was not the same;
- Finding information they received confusing and contradictory at times;
- Feeling there was lack of seriousness about the pandemic at the beginning;
- Feeling a loss of sense of community and connectedness of people being friendly on the street and the sense of mistrust there appeared to be between people;
- Sharing concerns about what would happen in the future. Would things ever really get back to normal and would they be able to interact with others in the same way they used to; and
- Speaking about the difficulties faced by one another - acknowledging how tough it would be doing school work at home and how difficult it has been for some older people who were completely isolated.
Use of technology to keep in touch has been a blessing for some but a challenge for others. Margaret (older person) felt that this was a great opportunity for them to keep connected but for Grainne (younger person) it was just a reminder of the distance between her and others.
Despite the difficulties felt during the lockdowns, positives were found during the discussions for example:
- Valuing the time spent with people more and looking forward to things getting back to normal in the near future;
- Feeling that the experience of the pandemic will unite people as they are going through it together; and
- Speaking about the importance of pushing themselves not to get into a rut and keep connecting with people.
“I’ve learned to adapt to it and be happier in general life. I’m learning German and also eating healthier.” - Grainne, young person
”Despite being locked up, met neighbours more due to daily walks” - George, older person
We have created a summary of all the conversations which is available for printing.
The Commissioner for Older People and the Commissioner for Children and Young People are closely linked due to their mutual statutory powers. As a society, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all. It has come to the attention of both Commissioners that their ‘constituents’ have been significantly adversely effected by this virus and its associated guidelines.
The closure of schools has brought its own challenges for children and young people. This includes but not limited to; difficulty keeping up with curriculum; exam pressures; digital poverty and the lack of free school meals. They have also had their social life, an important aspect of growing up, turned on its head.
The virus can have detrimental effects on an older person should they be exposed to it. People aged 75 and over account for over 75% of Northern Ireland deaths linked to Covid-19. As a result, many older people have been shielding for many months with little to no contact with anyone. Care homes have also been dealt a hard blow. Many settings have had to shut or dramatically limit the level of visits into the home to try to reduce the risk of an outbreak that has had dire consequences on the health and well-being of those directly affected by this.
- You can find out more by reading the intergenerational week press release