An Exeter-based programme that aims to build connections between younger and older generations is set to expand its activity, thanks to support from the UPP Foundation – a registered charity that offers grants to universities, charities and higher education bodies, founded in 2016 by University Partnerships Programme (UPP), the leading provider of on-campus student accommodation infrastructure and support services in the UK.
The new £21k funding will enable the ‘Exeter Intergenerational Project’ to expand its programme of activity, with its current projects involving ‘Exeter U3A’ (University of the Third Age) members in a range of activities across the University of Exeter, an annual public conference on matters of literature and community engagement (‘Reading for Life’), and the well-established ‘Care Homes Reading Project’ which sees English students volunteer to read on a regular basis with elderly residents in care homes.
The new backing from the UPP Foundation will see the Exeter Generational Project developing a co-living scheme, the first of its kind in the UK, with University of Exeter students spending a minimum of ten hours a week (visiting every day of the week) in meaningful engagement with the residents in exchange for their accommodation fees being waived.
A local care home, which is part of the Reading Project, will be the initial location for a pilot in September 2018, where the team involved plans to test practical aspects and determine the best ways for students to spend time at the home. The aim is for this pilot scheme to develop into a fully-fledged, and funded, permanent scheme from September 2019 onwards.
The most significant outcome of this scheme will be the greater promotion of inter-generational relationships.
This scheme will create meaningful opportunities for students and older people to come together and engage in mutually beneficial activities, which will in turn build relationships and understanding
Dr Johanna Harris, Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter who leads the initiative, said: “These relationships are significant because of the potential they offer to break down the barriers between young and old in our society and address the problems of age-segregation. Britain is becoming an increasingly age-segregated society, leaving older people isolated and depriving young people of the experience and wisdom older people have to offer.
“This scheme will create meaningful opportunities for students and older people to come together and engage in mutually beneficial activities, which will in turn build relationships and understanding.”
Loneliness is now one of the biggest threats to the physical and mental health of all generations, and according to research by the Social Integration Commission, the average Briton (excluding interactions within the extended family) has 56 per cent less interaction with other age groups than would be expected if there was no social segregation.
The Exeter-based project is helping to address this issue, while also building stronger links between the University and the local community, providing more meaningful student volunteering experiences, improving health and wellbeing for care home residents, and increasing understanding of co-living projects and how they can be implemented in the UK.
Richard Brabner, Director of the UPP Foundation, said: “We are delighted to be funding such an important project. Co-living schemes have emerged overseas but this is the first time that such a scheme has been piloted in the UK.
“This project is a win-win for students and the local community. It tackles loneliness in old age, breaks down generational barriers and supports students gain vital skills through a structured volunteering programme. This really is the civic university in action.”