THE BLOG

Time to Learn From Our Nation's Life Histories

23/10/2014 12:03 BST | Updated 22/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Many of us will have fond memories of listening to our grandparents' tales of days gone by as we were growing up. Learning about my Grandma's experiences as a young bride in the war taught me lessons that will stay with me for life and probably created my love of history.

But sadly for today's veteran storytellers, a study has found that nearly half (47%) of older people think younger people are simply not interested in what they have to say.

Perhaps proving this point, research into the attitudes and experiences of 1,500 children aged five to 11 found a third of children questioned said they didn't know what their grandparents had done for a job and 37% had no idea where they grew up.

And it doesn't stop there. The problem of a disconnect between young and older people isn't limited to family relationships. One in five (19%) children say they never spend time with older people who aren't their grandparents.

With loneliness and isolation growing issues in the UK, we at Anchor believe responsibility sits with all of us to ensure the generations are connected. Indeed, 92% of the older people we questioned agreed that spending time with younger people could help those who are lonely.

But, as our population continues to age, will the generations drift even further apart? Today we launch the Life Histories campaign to ensure they don't.

Life Histories is a nationwide initiative designed to encourage school children across the country to learn from the older people around them. The campaign has involved the creation of schools packs which were issued to 15,000 head teachers this month.

The packs include teaching guides designed to deliver key National Curriculum learning outcomes for children in years five and six (ages 9 to 11), while breaking down the barriers between the young and old by encouraging children to 'interview' an older person about their life.

The initiative, being supported by the kids' TV legend Bernard Cribbins, was inspired by Anchor's approach of asking about an older person's past when they come into our care. We know from our care homes that learning about people's life stories enables you to understand what makes each of us tick.

For example, I remember learning about a resident who had been a postman all his life. So it was no surprise that he continued to be an early riser when he moved to one of our care homes. It's that understanding that helps ensure, wherever possible, older people in care homes continue to live the lives they choose.

Great relationships and mutual understanding are good for all generations. By helping school children to understand more about an older person's experiences, an older person's story becomes an enjoyable way to learn based on practice rather than theory.

We hope that the initiative will prove popular all over England. We all like to think we're listened to by those around us, and growing in years doesn't diminish that desire. So perhaps it's time to open our eyes (and ears) to more of the older people living around us. We might just learn something.

To download the Life Histories Guide go to www.anchor.org.uk/lifehistories