Page last updated at 01:18 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 02:18 UK

Drive to break down age barriers

A group of older women
Ministers hope the scheme will help older people feel more comfortable around youngsters

Young and old people will be brought together in new schemes to be funded by the government in England.

Ministers say the generation gap is widening, with young and old spending less time together.

They have pledged £5.5m to support schemes designed to break down barriers and strengthen communities.

Minister for Children Beverley Hughes says the schemes help older people to see that young people are decent and law-abiding, "not yobs and hoodies".

Councils, working with local groups or charities, will bid for some of the money - which will be divided between 12 schemes.

Some organisations already run such schemes, funded by the National Lottery, the government or charities.

'Same concerns'

Ms Hughes will visit a project in Manchester later on Monday, where old and young are involved in a community radio station.

She said: "ALL FM is a great example of some of the innovative practices already going on around the country that are bringing older and younger people together.

"The projects give older people the chance to see that young people are good, decent and law-abiding, and not the "hoodies" and "yobs" that many people see them as.

"Projects like these also show that young and older people often have the same concerns about the communities they live in, like the environment and anti-social behaviour."

Young people don't necessarily think of older people as being kids themselves and of having gone through difficult times too
Veronika Neyer, The Children's Society

In 2008 for the first time the UK population had more people over the age of 65 than there were under 16.

The government says this makes it even more important that older and younger generations are helped to find "common ground".

Inter-generational activities are also being run in Scotland, with the aim of bringing communities together.

The Boomerang project in the Stobswell area of Dundee involves young people befriending elderly people and doing small jobs for them as well as going with them on outings such as going to pantomimes at Christmas.


The Children's Society has been running activities in Greenwich in south-east London.

Young and old have taken trips together - to the theatre and the seaside - played computer games together and been involved in art projects.

Programme manager Veronika Neyer said a key part of the work was to break down some of the stereotypes around the different generations.

Some older people who had been children through World War II in London spoke to young people about their childhoods.

"Young people don't necessarily think (of older people) as being kids themselves and of having gone through difficult times too," she said.

One of the Greenwich projects involved workshops for young people at risk of anti-social behaviour and offending, which included looking at stereotypes of old and young and conflict between the generations.

Ministers also hope to encourage more volunteering and support for young people in danger of going off the rails by giving them activities and people who take an interest in them.

England's Minister for Care Services, Phil Hope, said: "Getting people of different generations together is a good experience for both.

"By getting involved in these groups, older people can stay active, make new friends and improve their general wellbeing. Younger people get the benefit of years of experience and positive role models to turn to if needed."

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