Distance doesn't separate people, silence does!

by andrew-samuels in Harrow, England, United Kingdom

Not quite
Unfortunately this project was not successful.

Our society has been poisoned by social media and indifference, feeding the disconnect between the elderly and youth, I have the solution.

by andrew-samuels in Harrow, England, United Kingdom

  • Background 

In November 2014 I looked around and studied the presence of an energy which surrounded me whenever I attempted to join society.  It seemed to me unnatural and made me feel significantly out-of-sorts but was obvious whenever I watched the news, shared public transport and particularly consistent in the faces of the people I observed, enough for me to question; why is this happening and if it’s so obvious to me, why isn’t anyone sorting this out?  The inescapable problem was the disconnection between the elderly and the youth.  They seemed like worlds apart and ironically two vulnerable groups who needed each other desperately.  Such a simple problem which I suppose has created distance over time.  I recall a quote, “Distance doesn’t separate people, silence does”.  The problem was apparent but the solution eluded me for years. 

I don’t know what the solution is but in order to fix it I would need an elderly group and a youth group.  I decided, to work on creating the groups and expected to have the solution by the time the groups were established. 

  • Elderly Well-being 

Since November 2016 we have been managing the Active Communities Mondays group with the like-minded Communities’ Manager Navin Seneviratne at Harrow Leisure Centre.  He arranged the session, space and back-office stuff and I and Vimmi Khanna (Accessibility Instructor) would manage the sessions.   Mobility exercises performed by Richard Coker (The Exercise Referrals Manager) and Qigong or Zumba to create some variety.  A social group of approx. 6 elders attended on a regular basis every Monday morning which has now grown to 45-50 elders today (June 2019).  

We also offer Qigong and Mobility classes for groups in care homes and other locations.   

So elderly groups....check! 

  • Youth Work 

I have been promoting a sport called “Summey”, after it’s inventor, which was designed by a service user at Hillingdon Mind where I was working.  He asked for my help getting people to play his sport.  The conversation went more like: 

Summey: Andrew, can you help me to get more people to play my sport? 

Me : Sure, I think I can do that.  Is there anything else? 

Summey: Yes, I’d like it to be bigger than football! 

Me : Err…well let’s start getting more people to play it first, ok? 

After reviewing the rules, dynamics and a few changes I went to schools, youth clubs and anywhere I could to see how it would work.  Watford Sports and Community Centre gave us the opportunity to demonstrate and play in a few locations between Feb to September 2018.  It became an integral part of the mental health work we did as part of their youth mental health “Empower” programme.  I decided to use the sport to engage the youth.  We are going to start running sessions in Harrow, Hayes and Hillingdon as a means to manage aggression as it expelled so much energy.  We will combine it with Qigong to centre and focus the participants then finish the session with football to see if there is better focus, teamwork and strategy.  Youth group, check! 

Finally, the solution 

While working on these projects, since 2014, I have also attempted to get a better understanding of mental health.  I worked in various roles with Mind, Rethink Mental Health and Time to Change mental health charities.  I have been through mental health awareness and first aid training, certified as a Level 3 Counsellor and Qigong Instructor.  I eventually realised there was no overnight fix for ill mental health, was overwhelmed by the vast subject area but knew I had to focus on one area, the most important area, and make it good.  This was children’s mental health, the only way to make significant change was through generations.  So I started to write a book to educate children, raise awareness, reduce stigma and provide resilience.  It went through the hands of counsellors, psychologists, mental health professionals, parents and laypeople.  I made changes, more changes, about ten final versions and now it’s ready to implement, 3 years later.  It has surprised me how long to write this workbook and perfect this work. 

This book is for adults to read to children before they move into secondary education.  While they are still young, and as well as the outcomes above, it is designed to facilitate discussion, provide emotional vocabulary and through discussion and exercises will create the psychological space to discuss feelings and emotions initially relating to the stories but to also to tease out content from the readers, adult and child.  This space will be used by the kids when they are ready to talk later in life and if read with a family member (grandparents), it will be a space they can nurture and maintain throughout their lives.  Anchoring the emotional stability with elders who have life experiences to share. 

This book is the answer to the problems in society identified years previously.  Emotions are the same no matter what generation but the experiences they’ve had are all different.  Bringing the elderly together with the very young will create a respectful space of trust, reminiscence and most of all, human one-to-one interaction.  This is what we all need in an age of screens, texts and video. 

I would like to raise sponsorship initially to donate Roxy’s book to primary schools.  A class of 35 kids would need £350 (£10 per book).  Profits from the book will go towards creating and supporting more elderly well-being groups where we will also donate the book.  At the Harrow leisure centre, we have approx. 60 elders who attend every Monday morning.  I would also like to donate the books in care homes and other elderly groups to encourage inter-generational work. 

Each £350 raised allows us to give 35 books (a class) to a primary school.  And we'll continue to crowdfund for more schools.  Every child needs this education and every elder needs to have respect and purpose.  This effort provides the human connection children pretend to ignore (because showing your emotional side is not cool) but struggle with because they are human beings.  This human connection is the value of being human older people enjoy and crave. 

We ask businesses to sponsor a class for £350 and for this donation we can place their organisations logo on the back cover of the book and look for a school local to their organisation.

£10500 will allow us to reach 30 primary school classes (That's 1050 books).

We are reaching out to; 

  • Families (kids, parents, grandparents, uncles/aunties, godparents) 
  • Businesses to sponsor a class of school kids.  We have a school programme where the book can be part of a lesson plan over the course of a week.  They take the book home to read with their mums, dads or whoever will read with them and engage in school sharing the education as a class. 
  • Mental health professionals: This book can be used to facilitate discussion or at least recommended to create this space at home, alleviating problems with parenting later. 
  • The Local Authority/Council/CCG/Health Watch/Health and Wellbeing Boards: This is an answer to problems already identified in Joint Strategic Needs Analysis countrywide. 
  • Elderly Groups: They understand the value of this space and by creating it could ensure respect and connection to the family unit for years to come.
  • Parenting groups: This education should not be left for schools to implement.  Education of emotions and feelings should primarily be driven from home.  This would support any work the education sector is performing. 
  • Primary Schools/PTA’s: This is where the book should be placed, pre-transition year.  It is designed for children of this demographic.

This is a piece of intergenerational work which needs to be shared.  It will eventually be translated into other languages and into different size print.  It is vital for this work to be supported and if you’re reading this you’ll understand why. 

Thank you for reading about my project to change society! 

Email any questions you have to andrew.samuels@mind-angles.com 

Please visit our website to see our work: www.mind-angels.com.

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