Bridging the age gap with fun and laughter

Patina at The Phoenix Day Care Centre SUS-171122-104845001
Patina at The Phoenix Day Care Centre SUS-171122-104845001

A group of students have reunited with regulars at The Phoenix Day Care Centre at an exhibition of work they created together in an innovative art project.

“Seeing You Seeing Me” took place in May and was organized by community arts charity Patina, Priory School and The Phoenix Day Care Centre in Lewes, bringing together 45 Priory students with more than 30 elderly clients of the day care centre to spend time together and making connections through art.

On November 16 the teenagers caught up with their friends at the day centre to take a look at the work they produced.

The event was attended by Lewes Mayor Cllr Mike Chartier who said the initiative was a great example of Lewes demonstrating that it is an inclusive town, where everyone should feel a sense of belonging, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.

Priory headmaster Tony Smith described the project as: “A brilliant concept which helped bridge the generations through fun, laughter, skill and learning.

“I am so proud of our students and grateful to Patina and the Phoenix Day Care Centre for organizing this.”

During the project the participants’ attitudes to ageing and older people were explored with some intriguing results. The majority of the youngsters thought “old” meant 70+ years, although some thought old age started as early as 50. Most hadn’t imagined themselves in old age but nevertheless showed considerable empathy with the older people and demonstrated an impressive knowledge of dementia and its effects.

Both old and young said the project challenged their views of the other generation and they left feeling a strong sense of interests and humour in common.

More than anything the young people reported being motivated by the opportunity to spend time with older people whose lives had been so different from their own. Many hoped that they would make people at the day centre happy. This was summed up in the words of one teenager: “I want to learn about the people I meet and make someone smile”.

Caroline Croft of Community Art Charity Patina said: “One of the most striking outcomes of the project was that the young people involved seemed to get just as much out of the project as the older people they’d come to meet. Some students even returned during their half term because of the connections and friendship they’d found.

“The fact that 27 pupils chose to come to the exhibition six months later is a tribute to them and to the people they met at the Phoenix Centre.”

Andrea Januszewska, Phoenix Centre manager said: “What a fabulous piece of intergenerational work! The exhibition has been a huge success, connecting the community through art. Thanks to everyone who took part or supported the project. Here’s to the next venture together.”