Our society has become increasingly divided between different generations – and at United for All Ages we promote different ways to bring people of all ages together.
In September 2013 I wrote an article for a national publication about our vision to develop a business model to include both childcare and eldercare on one site, sharing back office functions and providing a service that will grow as the birth rate increases and older people live longer.
That vision has become a reality as the first ‘care-home nursery’ opens in the UK offering benefits to young and old as well as economic benefits for the care providers. Older people will enjoy joint activities and companionship, while children learn about older people, disabilities and importantly receive and give unconditional love.
Nightingale House is a magnificent care home in Clapham, south west London. Previously children from Apples and Honey nursery in nearby Wimbledon would visit the home on a regular basis. The care home and childcare provider soon recognised that the intergenerational activities were helping to promote mutual understanding and respect between the ages.
Helpfully the care home had a building with grounds on the site that could be converted into a nursery. Apples and Honey Nightingale has been registered by Ofsted and it welcomes children through its doors this September. The nursery not only provides places for local parents - some places are reserved for children of staff working in the care home. A win-win all round.
Since the nursery held an open day in June when BBC Breakfast were on hand to film this historic first in the UK, the interest in the shared site model has been encouraging. It confirms what we have been fostering and promoting: this pioneering social innovation is an example of what can be done.
Of course there are challenges in shared sites. Safeguarding vulnerable adults and children is critical but manageable with well trained and well supervised staff.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is finding suitable sites – sites that are big enough and in the right location for both childcare and eldercare services. Our experience in the UK and learning from other countries suggest that some existing older people’s care homes and housing schemes are likely to have spare land or facilities that could host childcare such as a 60 place nursery, rather than the other way round. Mutual shared amenities could include back-office, catering, maintenance and outdoor space.
Most eldercare providers do not have the experience of setting up childcare provision. So whilst using existing sites with spare capacity are the best option in the short/medium term, care homes and housing providers need expertise in making it happen.
This year we will be setting up the Shared Sites Network to promote and support the development of the many models of shared sites. In the meantime we are working with care providers, social housing providers and childcare providers to identify potential sites as well working with other interested stakeholders, funders and entrepreneurs.
Shared sites make sense. There are many similarities between childcare and eldercare; both are subject to regulation and inspection, both care for the most vulnerable and our most loved ones, and both require staff to be qualified and caring. Vitally shared sites bring different generations together.
Apples and Honey Nightingale shows what is possible. We are now looking for other providers keen to explore this model.
If you’re interested in our vision to create more shared sites, please contact:
Denise Burke, director of United for all Ages and Good Care Guide, also early years and childcare consultant.
Contact Denise on 01692 650816 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow on twitter @thedeniseb