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“Who would have thought a 2-year-old’s best friend would be a 92-year-old who also loves dinosaurs?”


Tuesday 29 January 2019

Inter-generational learning is the oldest form of learning. It typically involves learning that takes place in families and communities as part of daily life.


"The most important theme was the development of relationships between the grannies and the children and not just in school, but also in the community when they met at the shops, Mass, or local festivals. The communication skills of the children improved as they learned to speak louder, clearer and sometimes repeat things so that the seniors could better hear and understand them."


"During the afternoon the children and older people played bingo. Each team consisted of a child and older person. One of the older children sat between two women and repeated each item for the women, as they told her they couldn’t hear. Later, when we got back to the crèche, she told me, 'I loved helping the grannies to win in bingo and that’s what happens when you get older - your ears don’t work good anymore and you need someone to tell you things.'"


"I loved the lovely music we all made together."


"Who would have thought a 2-year-old’s best friend would be a 92-year-old who also loves dinosaurs?"


These are the comments of young children and early years practitioners involved in inter-generational learning (IGL) programmes. These took place in a number of Irish early years settings in recent months, with one initiative being awarded an Inspired Practice Award in October 2018

In the past, young children and older people naturally spent time together; often sharing the same home or living close to extended family. Today, children and older people are spending more time in age-segregated settings such as early years services, day centres, and nursing homes. Social changes such as migration, changing family forms, and urbanisation have contributed to a need for new approaches to strengthen contact between generations and promote social inclusion. As a result of these changes, planned IGL programmes are becoming important for bringing together people from different generations to share knowledge, skills, values and to have fun. Older people have much to share with young children, including stories, customs, skills and even the art of conversation. Young children also have much to share with older people through their enthusiasm and energy for living and learning, as well as their empathy and expertise with technology. Inter-generational activities are about learning together, learning from each other, and learning about each other. They are also an important way of building positive relationships between generations, as well as fostering a sense of community and social cohesion.

Many examples of inspiring IGL programmes are now emerging, not only in early years services and nursing homes but also in community centres, libraries, and community gardens around Ireland. A good example is this multi-generational choir bringing together generations from many communities in Donegal

The Together Old and Young (TOY) programme, funded by the EU to promote IGL between young children and older people, has developed a short, free online course for anyone interested in developing IGL with young children. Twenty-seven Irish practitioners, along with many European practitioners, piloted the training programme. This included a week-long workshop on IGL in DIT in May 2018. Many of these practitioners have gone on to develop IGL programmes within their own ECE services. Since the online course was launched in October 2018, it has been undertaken by more than 250 practitioners throughout the world. The next 6-week course will start on March 4th 2019 and registration opens on February 4th. Click here for more.

IGL offers many benefits to the lives and learning of young children and older people. It facilitates meaningful experiences for two generations at different stages of life in what is a win-win situation for all.


Anne Fitzpatrick and Dr. Carmel Gallagher from Technological University of Dublin (formerly DIT) were participants in the TOY project. For further information contact or


Anne Fitzpatrick and Carmel Gallagher will host an inter-generational learning masterclass at our Annual Conference on Saturday 13 April 2019. 

For more information on our Annual Conference Weekend 2019 and to book your place, please click here

Anne Fitzpatrick worked for many years as a lecturer and tutor on the BA Early Childhood Education programme in the Technological University Dublin (formerly DIT). Before that, she worked in a variety of ECE services in both the community and disability sectors. Her teaching and research interests focus mainly on early years practice, including intergenerational learning, the professional development of ECE practitioners and partnership with families and communities. She was a member of the ‘Together Old and Young’ (TOY) EU-funded consortium on intergenerational learning from 2012 to 2018. She is currently researching intergenerational learning in the early childhood sector from the perspectives of young children, older persons and early years practitioners.

Carmel Gallagher is a Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences in the Technological University Dublin based at the Grangegorman campus. She teaches on the BA in Social Care and is currently Coordinator of the MA Child, Family and Community studies programme. She has developed CPD training for staff who are responsible for providing activities programmes in day and residential centres for older people. She has a particular research interest in older people and is author of ‘The Community Life of Older People in Ireland’. Along with her colleague, Anne Fitzpatrick, she was a member of the ‘Together Old and Young’ (TOY) EU-funded consortium on intergenerational learning from 2012 to 2018

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