Not-for-profit quality care for over 25 years

Intergenerational champion uses new role to bring community together

A newly appointed ambassador for promoting relationships between all ages as part of everyday life has enlisted children and older people, to bring to life a historic story.

Taking up her role as intergenerational practice lead for the not-for-profit dementia care specialist, Belong, Sophie McKeon has spearheaded ‘Ribbons of Love’, a project devised by national charity, Ready Generations. The aim is to foster connections and learning between people of all ages – an approach advocated by both organisations – in this instance, through the use of history and art.

Whilst enduring hardship in the 18th century, thousands of mothers left their newborn infants in the care of London’s Foundling Hospital, providing only a bespoke ribbon as a way of identifying their offspring upon their return when they could afford to care for them.

Today, a modern take has been used to mark Global Intergenerational Week (25.04.22 – 01.05.22), with pupils of nurseries and schools in Chester and Crewe, and Belong’s residents all exchanging decorated ribbons, pictures and messages of love.

Sophie McKeon commented: “Ribbons of Love has been really well-received by our residents, who have loved getting creative, and imparting their wisdom and well-wishes to the children. The feedback from the participating schools has also been positive, with one teacher commenting on how much the pupils enjoyed it and it has given them ideas for future collaboration. The whole experience has been just magical.”

Ann Black, 79, resident at Belong, said: “I wrote, ‘Be brave and go on an adventure,’ for my message to a child. It’s been a lovely activity and keeping in touch with the children between our visits has been wonderful.”

Sophie will be based at Belong’s new state-of-the-art care village on City Road in Chester, when it opens this summer. The village will be Belong’s first to include a fully integrated children’s nursery, providing a range of shared learning opportunities, for children and for older people alike. Operated by Ready Generations, The Nursery in Belong will provide a high-quality care and learning environment for children from birth to five years, six days a week.

As Belong’s strategic lead for intergenerational practice, Sophie will also build on the work to-date of the organisation’s other villages in Cheshire and the North West, who have already established relationships with nurseries, schools and businesses in their respective areas.

A graduate in early years education, the Liverpool John Moores University alumni’s remit will be to create an intergenerational community across all ages and communities to provide positive outcomes for everyone, including improved mental health and wellbeing, healthy places to live and reduced loneliness.

Martin Rix, Belong chief executive, added: “We’re really pleased to welcome Sophie to the team for this newly created role and are hugely excited about the opportunities to drive intergenerational best practice forward, particularly as we prepare to open our first nursery in Belong. Belong are committed to breaking down longstanding intergenerational barriers that exist in the UK as we passionately believe that doing so can bring significant benefits, not just for older people, but for people of all ages.”

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