Mixing Young and Old with Intergenerational Music Magic

  • What is intergenerational music-making?
  • What are the social, physical and mental health benefits of mixing young and old?
  • How can we encourage intergenerational activities?

Why is intergenerational learning important? A 2006 Age Concern report states that: “…there is an argument that older and younger generations are becoming increasingly disconnected due to changing family patterns, the breakdown of traditional community structures, age-segregated activities and living arrangements, and policy interventions or services that target only specific groups (e.g. Granville, 2002; Hatton-­‐Yeo, 2006). Intergenerational practice and activities can contribute to overcoming problems arising as a result of these social changes (Pain 2005).”

You may see it in your own work, or your own lives: families live further apart, children don’t have as much contact with the older generations, and therefore have less knowledge of their shared history and less understanding between the generations. Traditional stories, games and songs aren’t being passed down as readily, so there is a huge gap in social and family knowledge.

And the list of potential benefits for both young and old go on…

In March this year, The Independent told the story of Nightingale Care Home in London and their intergenerational experience. Michael Stokes (the home’s physiotherapist) said that bringing young and old people together is a “very natural” concept, and the physical health of the residents has improved as a result. Their function levels and their ability to stand up and balance had improved. There is also a lovely story from Anna (93), about her intergenerational experience and budding relationship with Martha (3). See for yourself! But be prepared for a yank on the heartstrings…

The benefits…

The Legacy Project are a research, learning, and social innovation group that works across generations. On their website, they have identified the benefits that these sessions have on the children involved:

  • Through sharing an older adult’s interests, skills, and hobbies, children are introduced to new activities and ideas.
  • By getting to know “real, live, old people” children look beyond the ageist stereotypes.
  • Children are also encouraged to look toward the whole of their lives. They have many models for adulthood, but far fewer for older adulthood.
  • Children develop higher self-esteem, better emotional and social skills (including an ability to withstand peer pressure)

And if this isn’t enough, arranging an interaction for young and old with your nursery setting could fulfil the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework:

  • Communication and Language – through conversations with adults whose vocabulary will differ greatly to their own, and even to their parents/ carers.
  • Physical development – for both the child and the adult. Some leaders have found increased motivation when hosting music and movement or other forms of active play within these groups.
  • Personal, social and emotional development – through building friendships and developing an understanding of each other. Building self-confidence and readying the little ones with scenarios they will find themselves in during Big School.
  • Understanding of the World – Elderly residents may have stories to tell. Communication with them keeps history alive and the children are learning from someone who’s experienced them first-hand. For example, travel on a plane 50 years ago, or their favourite show on their black and white telly! Little ones may also help the elderly understand the modern world, what with new, fast-paced technologies.
  • Expressive arts and design, Literacy and Mathematics are all easily accomplished during these interactions. Choosing the task is the only hurdle. Singing counting and spelling songs, dancing, and creating shapes with their body just a few suggestions.
The Evidence…

Boogie Mites Licensee Nicole has hosted many Music and Movement sessions in care homes in the Portsmouth area which have proven extremely popular. The use of upbeat music and many different props and instruments in a Boogie Mites class seem to work as well for engaging the elderly as it does mum, dad and the children.

Liv is a Freelance Community Musician. She holds a degree in music, the Certificate for Music Educators: Early Childhood and a performance diploma in cello. She is a co-director of Music for Wellbeing CIC which works with adults who have long term health conditions such as dementia and respiratory conditions, adults with learning disabilities and intergenerational music projects.

Liv also works as a Boogie Mites (BM) Trainer; delivering practitioner training and parent education courses. Since October 2018, Liv has been studying part-time for her PHD in Intergenerational music making. The resulting report summarised the effects of the Boogie Mites Intergenerational Programme (BMIP), and we’re so happy to be able to share the results with you… Read our blog post on the Intergenerational report to find out more.

At an AGE UK session in Portsmouth, I had a chat with Sue Brown.

What do you think of the sessions?

“Very good! They’re all new songs that we never sang to our children, they’re new and catchy and the leader [Nicole] always has new toys [resources] to use and show us!” 

How had BM Impacted your life?

“Gets your blood-pumping! Gives me something to do during the day; otherwise, you’d be sat in your flat.” 

Mixing Young and Old

Boogie Mites at AGE UK Portsmouth

Our most recent Intergenerational music-making group was attended by Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour MP. In a tweet following the session, he said:

“A visit to @BoogieMites at the Royal Albert Day Centre in Landport was lots of fun and a great way to witness how this inter-generational project brings our community together so that everyone benefits. Well done to Nicole and Jane for all you do for our city”

Mixing young and old

Portsmouth Labour MP Stephen Morgan attending Boogie Mites Intergenerational session at The Royal Albert Day Centre


We are delighted with the success of Nicole’s intergenerational music sessions. Our next step is to support an independent evaluation of the impact on the wellbeing of everyone involved, which is scheduled for later in the year. This will be followed by the publication of a practitioners guide and training programme for Boogie Mites intergenerational music-making. We aim to grow our support and offer intergenerational music-making sessions to wider communities.

For enquiries, contact Sue Newman, Boogie Mites Director, on 023 92 817274 or email her sue@boogiemites.co.uk