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International Child Development Initiatives ICDI
the Netherlands
Margaret Kernan,

Together Old and Young

The purpose of the Together Old and Young (TOY) Programme is to promote intergenerational learning and to create new possibilities for older adults and young children to learn together and benefit from each others’ company. People are living longer but older adults and young children are having less and less contact with each other. Parents and grandchildren are migrating to cities and countries far away from grandparents. For many grandparents, it is also sometimes difficult to keep in touch with grandchildren. Other reasons for the lack of contact between old and young is that in many countries, older adults are living in senior citizen homes where they rarely see children and many young children are spending their days with their own age group in day care centres, pre-schools and schools.

The TOY Programme originated in the EU funded TOY Project (2012-2014) which took place in seven countries: Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal. The TOY Project was unique amongst European intergenerational learning projects with its explicit focus on children in the early childhood years – birth to 8 years. The Project brought together the two ends of the lifelong learning spectrum - early childhood education and activities for older adults. In collaboration with universities, NGOs and municipalities documented and supported learning initiatives involving young children and older adults in Europe were researched. These initiatives took place in libraries, arts and cultural centres, community gardens, pre-schools and schools.

The TOY Project demonstrated clear benefits of learning together for both young children and older adults and for communities at large including: mutual understanding, improved feelings of wellbeing, decreased loneliness and satisfaction from sharing knowledge and experience with children and enhanced social cohesion. To be able to spread this valuable approach International Child development Initiative (ICDI) is: advocating at national and international level about the need to enhance the interaction between young children and older adults when developing policies for lifelong learning; developing accessible professional development tools and training with the intention that the TOY approach will be recognized and validated in adult education, and in pre-service and continuing professional development of practitioners; promoting IGL activities in disadvantaged and segregated communities and providing information, resources and links to research about intergenerational learning worldwide involving young children and older adults.