This week our Global Local newsletter is looking at intergenerational care and community services. LGIU’s Head of Content Ingrid Koehler has enjoyed a first-hand look at intergenerational care near her home in SouthWest London, guided by an intergenerational pioneer Judith Ish-Horowicz, MBE. Judith is a co-founder of the UK’s first nursery co-located within a residential care setting for older people and is working to share learning and the benefits of intergenerational services with a wider audience.
Judith Ish-Horowicz is one of those people who brings light to any room. With a head full of short grey curls, and a spring in her step, she’s a bundle of energy and there’s no one who can sing hallelujah more joyously – as she does in our synagogue’s choir. She’s a carer and a connector and a relentless collector of people who can help her achieve her vision. It’s a good vision, though. One you can get behind and one you find yourself wanting to get behind. Judith wants to share her experiences of the benefits of intergenerational care and community services through storytelling and through a new system of accreditation and training on providing high quality intergenerational services. Judith is one of the co-founders of Apples and Honey, the first child care facility co-located with a residential care home in the UK. Nightingale House is a residential care facility for older Jewish people – the nursery is Jewish aligned but open to families of all faiths or none.
When Judith first realised I had policy experience in adult social care Judith immediately invited me to come and see what they were doing with intergenerational care at Nightingale House. My heart sunk a little, the last time I was in a care setting was just at the onset of the pandemic. After some real progress on a project in an extra care facility, I had to decline a meeting because I had a fairly serious sniffle and I didn’t want to be the potentially deadly vector for the residents and care workers. Days later we went into lockdown. I’d been working for LGIU on home care for a number of years and had seen the underpaid and overworked care workers, the oft short-changed care recipients and the companies that were struggling to turn meagre profits. I’d also worked on contingency planning support for local governments to prepare for care homes on the verge of going under. My expectations weren’t high.
When I came for my first visit I immediately noticed the smell. Or the lack of smell, that antiseptic odour that only just overpowers the scent of urine and despair you often encounter in care homes. It simply wasn’t there – everything smelled…normal. Then I noticed an amazing, 19th century, life-sized painting, of a young girl. The artist, Solomon J Solomon was an early member of the home’s board, the girl in the painting grew up and grew old and became a resident, as did her child. Now the artist’s great-grandchild works part time in the care home as a GP – and is married to Judith. “L’dor v’dor,” Judith told me. It means something a little more than ‘generation after generation’ in Hebrew – it’s not just the one after the other, but the links between – both forward and back. “That’s what we’re doing here,” she said.
And they are. I went on a whirlwind tour of the amazing facilities. I waited for a late Monday morning Havdalah and met some of the residents ‘I love it right from the start. It is the highlight of my week. Happiest atmosphere you can get’ Brenda (age 91). Havdalah is a rite to break the Sabbath and it’s normally done on a Saturday evening, but at Nightingale house it’s on a Monday so residents and children alike can sing together. I took in the scent of spice, beeswax candles and overflowing wine (grape juice for all, of course) and the sound of children, staff and residents singing. The children were delighted to be the centre of attention and their older friends delighted in the four-year-olds’ confidence, curiosity and energy. As 98-year old Fay said: ‘What’s 90 years between friends?’ Dor v’dor at its core, and there I was, part of it, too. Judith had woven in someone new to that chain, me. That was not my last happy visit to that home.
Apples and Honey Nightingale (AHN) opened its doors in 2017, bringing to fruition the dream of creating a truly intergenerational community of learners and teachers from all walks of life, from birth to death, a truly cohesive community. At AHN, the children would learn from living history, experience ageing as a natural part of the cycle of life in all its beauty and sadness, understand where they fit in the chain of generations that have come before and will come after them, have a sense of belonging and of community. They would form relationships across the generations, with the residents, their grandfriends, and their families and the care staff. This would be a holistic education. As for the residents, suddenly their home was filled with movement and chatter, they could join in the programme or not, as they wished, share their wisdom, become the children’s teachers and confidants, partners in crime or models of good citizenship.
Early in their journey, Judith Ish-Horowicz gave an amazing Tedx Talk on their mission and what it meant to her. She wanted to provide today’s kids with with what she didn’t have. She grew up without grandparents, one long gone, another a long way away, and two murdered at Auschwitz. Her mother parented without that support and encouragement, and yes respite, but became a wonderful grandmother later. (You can watch the talk here on YouTube.) She wanted to provide those intergenerational links in a time where families move for work or live far away from each other – weaving together new ties to create stronger individuals and communities.
Six years on, Judith says “It’s even better than I could have hoped. The residents have a new sense of purpose, they know that they can provide the children with time, with an uncritical love, something unique. The children learn to wait, the gift of coping with delayed gratification, to enjoy the moment. They acquire resilience and awareness of others and their needs. Their language and communication skills develop exponentially. They are loved with an uncritical love, living within a community that has time to listen and to share stories, a rare commodity in our busy, bustling world.”
And it’s not just the children and the residents who benefit. When I visited on a summer open day, I could see how relaxed and confident family members were. I shared their joy as they watched children spin honey from the home’s own hives and the looks on their faces as they tasted the fruit of the nectar from flowers that provided light and colour for their parents and grandparents in the homes gardens and pathways. The impact on relatives, many of whom may carry a sense of guilt for having ‘put their loved one in a care home’, is heart-warming. They see their family members active and involved in a new community, often finding a new ‘career’ as teacher, mentor and life coach. As one daughter said “There’s something magical about little children singing. It was more effective than any medicine or any treatment in returning the twinkle to my mother after dementia hit.”
Judith’s work and the stories of the people who are part of the chain of life at Nightingale and Apples and Honey exemplify how Intergenerational Practice transforms lives and has the potential to transform society.
Developing a new support offer for intergenerational services
Apples and Honey and the Beth Johnson Foundation are relaunching the CIPRD, The Centre for Intergenerational Practice, Research and Development. Professor Emerita Sue Read, CEO of the Beth Johnson Foundation and Judith Ish-Horowicz at Apples and Honey Nightingale are heading up this initiative with a shared vision to support the development, and raise the awareness and profile, of high-quality intergenerational practice, development and research across England, and to encourage and nurture more sustainable and lasting relationships between people of different generations (specifically older and younger generations). The Centre will encourage and grow connections across all sectors and levels, from grass root to government; establish networking opportunities; build strong cross disciplinary partnerships; develop and facilitate intergenerational training; and promote intergenerational research. We see ourselves as a conduit; consolidating news and events, signposting good practice; and linking people to people.
They are also on the executive team and are the England Leads for Global Intergenerational Week 24-30 April and request local government support.
Their one day CPD course Introduction to Intergenerational Care and Practice is open to anyone who is interested in the concept of intergenerational work. These may include educators, councillors, policy makers, managers, support staff, volunteers etc and they also offer a longer practice based diploma.