The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland and The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People have brought together younger people and older people to work on an oral history project. National Intergenerational Week runs from 08-14 March, 2021. Conversations between older and younger people highlight the common aspects of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Older and younger volunteers from different areas of Northern Ireland were paired for conversations about their experience of dealing with the pandemic. Discussions included challenges over the past year, positive moments in the midst of adversity, and what each participant hopes for the future beyond Covid-19.

Commenting on the joint project, The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch said:

“I’m delighted to bring older and younger participants together to mark National Intergenerational Week. Older people were keen to take part and gave generously of their time and their views. The conversations were fantastic and the outcomes made for interesting insights.

“Some of the key findings from the project included both age groups feeling uncertainty about the future and both really missed seeing friends and family. The older people spoke with great resilience about living through troubled times and shared their experiences of hope as bad times pass and life can begin familiar patterns again. Older people spoke of learning new skills and working with technology so they can keep in contact across the generations.

“I am advising government that older people will need support moving forward, to re-integrate into society, find their freedom again, and deal with the impacts of Covid-19.

“Listening to both generations has increased my view that, as the vaccination programme increases and lockdown restrictions are eased, both our young and older people in Northern Ireland, will focus on building a new, resilient and hopeful future.”

Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said:

“This past year has been extremely challenging and full of uncertainly for many of us and none more so than for our children and our older people. The project highlighted a feeling of a loss of a sense of community and connectedness of people being friendly on the street and the sense of mistrust there appeared to be between people.

“Children and young people have lost out on so many of the normal childhood experiences that help them grow and develop as individuals, with interruptions to schooling and restrictions on social interaction with friends and family all impacting on their mental health and wellbeing.

“They felt the news and information they received was confusing and contradictory at times and are nervous of what their life is going to be like in future. However, they valued the time spent with people more and are looking forward to renewing their education within their school settings, being able to go outside, participate in their community and being with their friends in real time and not online.

“Thankfully with light now at the end of the tunnel there is an opportunity to build on the shared experiences of young and old, so that together we can work to strengthen links between and within our communities.”


Notes to Editor:

  • The Commissioner for Older People and the Commissioner for Children and Young People have similar statutory powers, for each respective age groups.
  • As a society, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected many of us and it has come to the attention of both Commissioners that both young people and older people have been significantly affected by this virus.
  • The Commissioner for Older People’s office reached out to a variety of older people’s groups and a number of older people expressed their interest in the project. Shortlisting participants was based on a first come, first served basis and by geographical area. The participants were paired with each other by availability and geographical area. Discussions took place via Zoom with a member of either COPNI or NICCY facilitating each discussion.
  • Key findings from the project include, isolation from family and friends, challenges around exams and school work, navigating the use of IT to stay in touch with others, uncertainty about the future and staying motivated/keeping busy in unprecedented times.
  • National Intergenerational Week (8-14 March 2021) is an online campaign connecting those passionate about intergenerational activity and inspiration across the UK. As we continue to adapt to life in a global pandemic, tackling the effects of loneliness and social isolation by keeping older and younger people in touch and inspiring innovative ways to do this becomes ever more important. In its second year, the campaign is about celebrating and sharing those ideas, moments and opportunities where different age groups come together and intergenerational friendships are made.
  • The campaign is a UK-wide collaboration between Linking Generations Northern Ireland, Generations Working Together (Scotland), The Cares Family (England) and Bridging The Generations (Wales).

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