27 September 2017

We caught up with Tony Hedley to chat about Holme Hall Unite, a community group of local residents working together to better their local area for everyone in it, to find out what they’re doing to bridge the intergenerational divide.

Photo of hands together, from people of different ages

What have you done at Holme Hall Unite to bring generations together?
We’ve always tried to include everyone, whenever we were doing anything. We involved the junior school in planting 14,000 daffodil bulbs across the estate, and as we put a large batch right outside the school gates they see the results every year. As the bulbs have a 20 year life, maybe some of the children who helped plant them will one day be taking their own children to the school and will be able to say to their children “I helped to plants those bulbs.”

What’s the age difference at Holme Hall Unite?
The youngest person to work on our community garden is around 10 years old, and the oldest is 84. Our youngest member has just been on a National Trust bee recognition course!

How and why have you sustained an ongoing connection between different ages?
Many people said initially that there would be damage to our projects, with anti-social behaviour. It makes sense to involve younger people – they’re hardly likely to damage something they have helped to construct, are they? It helps them take pride in where they live, and makes them want to maintain it.

Ultimately we are just the custodians of our communities; why would you not want today’s younger generations to be involved in planning the place that they will inherit? I think it’s important that we show young people that we care about where we live. If we don’t show any enthusiasm, then why would they?

Do you have a favourite representation of connection or commonality?
A few, yes. Us (and our tree planting!) was featured in Emma Stevens’ Tree Planting video, that was exciting. Also our community garden! Local school children built ‘bat and bird boxes’ to go within the existing tree-line that bounds the garden and everyone chipped in to plant 14,000 bulbs to brighten up the area.

What kind of things have you learnt from each other?
I think the younger people have learnt a lot about teamwork, and working together for the common good – and we’ve benefitted from their enthusiasm! I’ve learnt a lot about taking pride in your own community, too.

Why do you think it’s important for people from different generations to connect?
When you understand the problems that different age groups face, you can see things in a different light. One generation may have skills that another lacks, or solutions to issues that the other has! Currently our younger people are holding classes for the older generation, teaching them how to get on with their mobile phones and tablets.

I’m looking into further growing space for fruit and vegetables. Many older people do not have the physical strength to tend allotments as they once did and we also have a lot of young families who would like to “have a go” but have no idea where to start. It would be nice to “match-up” someone with a wealth of experience and knowledge, with someone who has boundless enthusiasm (and more strength!). Everybody wins.

What do you think you’ve gained from your intergenerational relationships that you might not have found in other relationships?
I believe we have gained respect. Younger people see that we are doing something positive for the estate – and they appreciate that. Hopefully more will get involved in the future, too.

What advice would you give someone looking to make friendships across generations outside of the family?
Maybe make contact with a local school? Most schools want to widen their pupils’ experiences and make them good members of society through community involvement. I’d say try embarking on a small project initially, where the school can be involved.
"Ultimately though, don’t be disheartened. The more you do, the more others will want to get involved."