Our brand new activity ‘My local area over time’ is all about discovering the story of the place you live. Every street, park, village and town has a rich history filled with stories of the people who lived, worked and played there. Discovering those stories, and meeting the people who’ve lived them, is a brilliant way to find out more about where you live, and make friends along the way.
This activity is all about building relationships with older people around your local area; talking to them, learning from them and hearing their stories.
Building relationships, making friends, combating loneliness
There’s another magical part to this activity on top of learning about how your area has changed over time, and that’s how it can help the wellbeing and mental health of older people.
Over half of all people aged 75 and over live alone, and sadly two fifths of all older people, which is about 3.9 million people, say that television is their only company. If you’ve ever felt lonely, you’ll know how tough it is, but did you know that it can also have a negative effect on physical health as well as mental health? After all, the two are closely connected.
Happily there are several organisations and charities in the UK working to research the impact of loneliness and providing guidance and support for elderly people and for people who want to help. These include Age UK and the Campaign To End Loneliness.
Both of these organisations have lots of advice on the benefits of making connections with elderly people in your neighbourhood, both for them, and for the people looking to help!
For example, research has shown that when children mix with older people on a regular basis, their reading, language and social skills develop much more quickly, and have more time to learn and play. For older children, elderly people can act as mentors, helping them navigate and learn key skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking.
And for elderly people themselves, it alleviates loneliness, gives them a fresh perspective on the world, the opportunity to learn new skills and the purpose and satisfaction involved in helping younger people make their way in the world.
It’s a circle of positivity!
Passing on knowledge and hearing stories
History comes alive when you hear it directly from the people who’ve lived it. What better way to hear about how your local street, village, town or city has changed over time than to the people who’ve grown up and played and gone to school and raised their families there.
You might discover how your local park was used to grow vegetables during the 2nd World War. Or perhaps how local people campaigned to save a special tree from being cut down or to have more wildflower meadows to support wildlife? Maybe it will be about the wildlife they’ve spotted while living there, or about how new housing estates have sprung up and more people have moved to the area.
All of these stories are perfect for learning more about how your local area has changed, which can in turn be used to develop your ‘local area over time map’. You could also think about sharing the stories in different ways. How about:
- Turning some of the stories into a comic book that could be shared with others in the school.
- Recording some of the interviews and making a video.
- Writing up a story or report that could be sent to a local newspaper or displayed in a local library
The activity guide will take you through step-by-step, with lots of helpful advice on how to make contact with local elderly people. It will also help students prepare questions in advance, so they are ready to interview people once the connection has been made.
We’d love it if the relationships you build with local elderly people continued beyond just this activity! Think of it as the start of a brilliant friendship, an opportunity to learn from each other, and a chance to help people.
After all, that’s one of the key aims of Roots and Shoots! To help people, animals and the environment. We’re all part of the same beautiful planet and we need to help each other.