Although I like to think my largely trouble-free teens were due to my innate sense of right and wrong, and, above all, managing not to get caught, my parents attribute it to my not wanting to upset my grandparents, to whom I was very close.
This may be true – certainly, “I wonder what Grandma will say?” is a key tool in my own attempts to discipline a toddler – and has made me wonder why such cross-generational techniques are generally reserved for the family environment.
It’s been more than six months since Professor Cathy Nutbrown published her review of childcare and early years education, and we’re still waiting for a full Government response. But encouraging the pooling of scarce resources should at least tickle ministers’ fancy. Why not combine nurseries with nursing homes? Why have a children’s centre and an old people’s day centre, both half-empty half the time, when we could have one super centre catering for both. (I know, we could call it, um, a community centre or something.)
It’s a genuine suggestion and not because of the similarities between the two groups that some people might crassly observe. Kids, after all, gain hugely from being around older people. In turn, the presence of children could bring variation to the often stultifying and boring routine of the residential home.
UK culture has no space for such an idea, with no care providers currently offering both. Most residential homes for old folk don’t even have a room with toys for visiting children, let alone facilities for joint activities. But we could learn from others. Stephen Burke, the director of United for All Ages, a social enterprise working on bringing the generations together, points to Denmark. Carers there take a generic training programme enabling them to work with any group aged 0 to 100.
This isn’t a gift to Schools Minister Elizabeth Truss, who recently announced plans for childcare workers to each be allowed to look after more children. I’m not suggesting formal caring roles for the elderly or that the youngsters dish up dinner each day to their elders (let’s save that for the NEETs having to “earn” their benefits). Nor is it part of infantilising older people. A person who disliked kids in their thirties or forties, or even one who likes kids, shouldn’t be compelled to play with them in their seventies or eighties. But they should surely be given the chance to, should they wish. It could benefit everyone, and cost nothing.
What’s next for Kylie – physics?
I am thrilled to hear that Kylie Minogue is returning to acting in Playhouse Presents for Sky Arts, left. Not just because my favourite TV moment ever remains – even in this post The Wire, post Scandi-drama age – when she walked up the aisle as Charlene in Neighbours to marry Scott. (In fact, I insisted that their wedding song, Angry Anderson’s “Suddenly”, was played at my wedding.) Whenever anyone combines careers or revisits old ambitions they should be applauded – it reminds us anything is possible. I’m hoping she decides on a complete mid-forties career change next and follows Professor Brian Cox, who went from pop to particle physics. Or that he becomes an actor. I don’t mind which.