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  • Natalia Piotrowska

Bridging Generations: The Power of Intergenerational Volunteering

In today's fast-paced world, where generational gaps often seem wider than ever, intergenerational volunteering can serve as a tool for fostering connection, understanding and shared experiences across age groups. Volunteering brings together individuals of different ages, backgrounds and experiences, creating diverse opportunities for collaboration and mutual support. This blog explores why intergenerational volunteering is not just good, but essential for building stronger communities and nurturing meaningful relationships.

Mutual Learning & Understanding 


One of the most significant benefits of intergenerational volunteering is the opportunity for mutual learning and understanding. From across the generational landscape, we know there is a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and life experience, with different generations offering fresh perspectives and new skills. This exchange of skills and insights enriches all parties, creating a dynamic learning environment where everyone has something valuable to contribute. 

Community Cohesion 


Intergenerational volunteering cultivates a sense of community cohesion and community pride among participants. By working together to address local issues and support community initiatives, volunteers develop a deeper connection to their neighbourhoods and feel empowered to make a positive impact. This sense of collective ownership strengthens community resilience. 


Promoting Wellbeing 


Engaging in intergenerational volunteering has numerous benefits for overall wellbeing. Studies have shown that volunteering can reduce stress, increase happiness and improve physical and mental health for volunteers of all ages. The sense of purpose and fulfilment derived from helping others can truly have monumental benefits to how we feel.  


Volunteering transcends age barriers, providing a space for individuals to form meaningful social connections across generations. Whether it's working side by side in a community garden, mentoring a young student or participating in an intergenerational storytelling project, volunteers forge bonds that extend beyond age differences. These connections not only combat social isolation but also strengthen the fabric of communities, creating a sense of belonging and solidarity. 

Examples of Volunteering Initiatives 

From January to June 2023, Intergenerational Music Making collaborated with the Youth United Foundation to execute four national intergenerational music projects. These projects brought together various youth groups including Scouts, Rainbows, Beavers and Cubs with local care homes. The pilot project occurred in Salford, uniting The Boys Brigade with HC-One Pendleton Court. Natalie Whipday, Director of Operations at The Boys’ Brigade and a volunteer at the 53rd unit in Salford, highlighted how much of an impact this opportunity had on the residents, their families, young people and herself as a leader and volunteer. 


Deciding to work with the junior section (aged 8-11), Natalie explained what she initially expected the outcomes to be from the project: “From a volunteer leader's perspective, I was expecting the project to benefit the residents and I thought that it would be a really nice thing for the young people to do. I couldn't have been more wrong. The impact was not only on the residents, it was on the residents, families who were often present during the session, the staff at the care home and then us as leaders.”  

She then went on to explain the impact of the project on those taking part: “The young people just flourished in confidence as the weeks went on and there were real mutual respects and friendships being formed between a variety of ages. The young people were more and more excited as the weeks went on to the point they were ultimately planning and leading the sessions. They were making cards and letters to take for specific residents and there were happy tears. Comments from residents such as ’This is the best day ever’ were relayed back to parents and teachers and the group were reporting back to their BB group each week, updating their peers about what they've been doing talking about specific residents they might have made connections with. They took part in school assembly talking about the project.” 

“The intuition of the young people to really read the room ensured residents were being included. No one was being left out, even those residents who were non-verbal they engaged with to include them. Visiting family members were brought to tears when they'd not seen relatives smile until then, because they'd not communicated for so long. So it was certainly a highlight of my week and I was very much thinking I’d just support the project but I was certainly benefiting as well as everyone there. So the goal of creating more inclusive, compassionate societies was happening before our eyes, they were definitely fostering meaningful connections with the residents.”

Older neighbour Janet and befriender Laura connected through b:friend almost 18 months ago. 


Janet used to be very active, with a busy social life. She was a keen walker in her free time and always valued her independence. 


As her mobility reduced and the pandemic slowed life down, she started to spend more time at home alone. Although she had a supportive family, her friends lived away and could only stay in touch over the phone, which made her feel isolated. 


When she first heard about befriending, Janet was apprehensive as she wasn’t sure if it was for her. Meeting Laura quickly changed this. 


It’s been smashing, Laura is lovely" Janet said. “I find it works two ways, we chat about local history that she finds interesting, as she is not from around here. It is surprising, but we actually both benefit from the chats, and it makes me feel better that I can contribute. 


“I know I’ve got family and some friends, but they are all older. She is outside of that circle and brings a different perspective. She is like a bit of fresh air.  


“Laura is a proper friend now. We have a good conflab about everything; it’s lovely.” 


Laura said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent getting to know Janet! We have lots of the same interests and I have definitely learned a lot about baking, walking, and the city. 


“It has been particularly fascinating to hear about her experiences living in the area for a number of years and better understand the history of where I now live. She has been able to recommend new places to eat that I would never have known about without her! 


“It is a lovely part of my day when I get to spend time visiting Janet, and I always leave with a smile. I would recommend befriending to anyone.”  

If you would like to read another b:friend success story, we invite you to take a look at the Norah & Harvir case study.

With The Big Help Out approaching, we encourage you to make your volunteering opportunities available to all ages. Embracing diversity in volunteers not only brings a wealth of skills and perspectives but also fosters intergenerational connections and mutual learning. 

Let's build a more inclusive volunteering community where people of all ages can make a meaningful impact together. 



About IMM 

Intergenerational Music Making is a national not-for-profit organisation which delivers programmes, training, campaigning & research to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of the old and the young in communities across the UK, through the power of music. 

IMM works closely with care homes, schools, hospitals, musicians and creatives, sharing their unique expertise to deliver and embed a culture of intergenerational practice. 

IMM’s unique approach combines clinical practices used in music therapy with bespoke techniques proven to maximise intergenerational engagement. Their pioneering work has influenced and helped shape and integrate national programmes and practise including across Social Prescribing and Clinical Commissioning Groups. 

You can learn more about IMM’s impact stories here: 

About b:friend 


b:friend believes that no one should have no one. b:friend is a charity combatting loneliness and social isolation experienced by older adults. Their aim is to reconnect older folks with the people and places around them, and create lasting friendships in the community.  

b:friend matches older neighbours with volunteer befrienders, who visit them once a week for a chat and a cuppa to reduce feelings of loneliness. They also run Social Clubs with a different fun activity every week to boost wellbeing and meaningful community connections for over-65s.  The charity launched in 2017, and we currently work with around 1,000 older adults across South Yorkshire, Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire, and Mid-Nottinghamshire. 


Volunteers can signup via their website: 


Referrals and self-referrals can be made here: 


You can find out more about their Social Clubs here: 


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