Rebuilding Bridges music session
Rebuilding Bridges was an intergenerational music intervention that worked with participants, aged 7 months to 100 years, in three care home gardens in the Torbay area of the Southwest of England. The project followed the intergenerational pilot intervention “Making Bridges with Music” which took place in 2017. Rebuilding Bridges was an innovative music and arts intervention that ran for eight sessions (September to December 2021) and worked collaboratively with pre-school children, older people living in care homes, childminders and care home staff. The project aimed to re-ignite and grow the intergenerational relationships that music-making can inspire, gently opening the doors of Torbay’s care homes as we emerged from the pandemic. 
The intervention had the following aims:
  • to reduce isolation and improve the wellbeing and confidence of older and younger participants
  • to re-ignite and grow the intergenerational friendships that music-making can inspire, as we emerge from the pandemic
  • to develop skills and knowledge of intergenerational practice for emerging artists, who will create their own artistic responses to the project
  • to engage practitioners in reflexive practice, extending learning through CPD sessions.
To achieve these aims, the following objectives were identified:
  • to assess the effectiveness of the intervention in terms of wellbeing
  • to provide opportunities for practitioners and emerging artists to engage in professional development
  • to progress dialogue on intergenerational music practice, providing practical and inspirational resources
  • to explore possibilities for conducting a longitudinal study of the impact of music-based intergenerational engagement.
The intervention team included emerging artists and social musicians with several years of experience working in community settings with diverse groups. Rebuilding Bridges was funded primarily by Arts Council England National Lottery Fund, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Torbay Music Hub and Torbay Early Years Advisory Team.

The evaluation

Kathrin Paal's involvement in the Rebuilding Bridges project aimed to conduct an evaluation to assess the impact and effectiveness of the intervention in delivering its objectives, with a particular focus on whether it was effective in improving the wellbeing of young children and older people attending the music sessions, when emerging from a global pandemic. 
The evaluation took place in one of the three care homes and used a mixed method design that included quantitative and qualitative methods to capture data from verbal, pre- and post-verbal participants.
The main research questions were:
a) What impact does the Rebuilding Bridges intergenerational music programme have on children and residents' wellbeing?
b) What other benefits do children and residents receive from being involved in the Rebuilding Bridges intergenerational music programme?
c) How were emerging artists involved in the programme and what skills and knowledge of intergenerational practice did they develop?
Research methods included the Arts Observational Scale (ArtsObs) and The Leuven Involvement and Wellbeing Scale. Data collection included observations (four sessions in total), feedback from residents and children, two online video call interviews with childminders, one online video call with the care home activity lead and post-session reflections with the intervention team after every session.


  • Results suggest positive effects of the intervention on the social and emotional wellbeing of residents and young children. 
  • The intervention had a positive effect on young children. Childminders reported that some of the children were speaking more, developed connections with residents even without physical contact, gained confidence and enjoyed the sessions.
  • The intergenerational sessions preserved musical heritage, young children learned old songs and nursery rhymes; likewise, the older participants were exposed to new songs and both groups got involved in creating the lyrics.
  • The intervention provided older people with opportunities to recall familiar songs and nursery rhymes, be mentally stimulated and be motivated. The sessions provided a sense of purpose and gave the space to (re-)connect with the children.
  • Care home staff reported that interactive music and arts sessions are effective in increasing motivation and wellbeing in older people. 
  • Care home staff and childminders were crucial in enabling participation by adapting to residents’ needs and supporting children for whom interaction with older people may be novel. 
  • The support of care home staff and childminders also helped the musicians and emerging artists to (re-)connect both groups.
  • Childminders are keen to continue the relationship with the care home. With adequate support and training, childminders can be a key element in building strong connections between care homes, young children and families in the Torbay area.
  • The emerging artists’ involvement enabled innovative forms of practice to be collaboratively developed whilst providing professional development opportunities for each artist.
In summary, the Rebuilding Bridges intergenerational music intervention achieved its key aims. It promoted learning, wellbeing, and interactions for two vulnerable groups at risk of isolation amidst a global pandemic.

The evaluation team

Ms Kathrin Paal is a research assistant and PhD candidate at Plymouth Institute of Education, University of Plymouth. Her research explores preschoolers' attitudes and behaviour towards the environment and the benefits of preschool gardening. She has several years experience working with children for academic research and as Early Years Educator in nurseries in Germany and the UK. 
Lois Peach is a PhD candidate at the University of Bristol researching non-familial intergenerational programmes. Lois’ research is interested in exploring different ways to understand intergenerational relationships between children and older adults, including those living with dementia. She uses (post)qualitative methods to consider the processes involved when different generations are brought together in social care or educational settings. Lois is also a Graduate Teacher (Level 2) and Research Associate within the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol.