A local Torbay scheme is bringing young and old together to share experiences, get active and support one another in nature this summer.

Based in Orchard Forest School at Lupton the Connecting Actively to Nature (CAN) Intergenerational Project takes ten older adult volunteers and four Childminders bringing ten early years children between them and gives them the chance to interact, share stories and learn new skills together in beautiful forest surroundings.

Over the last year many children have lacked interaction with adults outside their close family, depriving them of the opportunities to socialise and find new role models while many older people have been shielding and not getting outside and active as much as they should.

Research indicates that intergenerational friendships improve children’s speech, language and communication as well as building their self-esteem and confidence. The project also provides opportunities for children to understand that older people are valuable members of our community with the adult volunteers passing on old-fashioned skills and knowledge to the children.

Cordelia Law, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Torbay Council said “The pandemic has deprived many children and adults of opportunities to interact and share new experiences with people. This fantastic project gives different generations the opportunity to do just that. Intergenerational learning provides an opportunity to challenge the narrative around ageing and older adults and enables all age groups to be active participants in an ongoing lifelong learning process.”

Childminder Kris Westacott said: ‘It was an absolutely perfect morning for them, and ideal to be able to start socially interacting with others again, after such a strange and challenging year that has had a knock-on effect on the confidence of so many. I’m sure as the weeks go by we will see the confidence in social interaction and the relationships grow so much! A huge thank you for organising it, and please thank all of the lovely over 50’s for making the morning so enjoyable’.

The project is being run initially as a pilot with funding from Connecting Actively to Nature – CAN, a Devon Local Nature Partnership programme, supported by Sport England and managed by Active Devon across Devon. The project is being delivered by South West Family Values and managed by Torbay Council locally.

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