Ingelise uses a sleeping bag in her research

A research group is in full swing to find out how nature and culture can improve life for people in Greenland.


By Nicoline Larsen


Doing things together in nature such as fishing and cooking over fires has a positive effect on the well-being of young people and the elderly. That is why Ingelise Olesen and her research colleagues went on a camping trip this summer with a group of young and elderly people to try to find activities that can build intergenerational communities.


“Our research focuses on creating a community between the young and the elderly that is based on culture and nature,” says Ingelise Olesen, research coordinator at the Greenland Center for Health Research. That should explain why she needs a sleeping bag for her research. She brought it to her pilot project this summer, where the young and the elderly got to spend the night out in nature in Eqaluit Paarlliit.


More specifically, it is up to the Center for Public Health to find out how to shape some good courses for the young and the elderly in Greenland, where they can gather for joint activities in nature, and at the same time provide ample opportunity for the elderly to pass on some of their vast cultural knowledge to the young. It is known from previous research that this has a positive effect on both the young and the elderly in the Arctic.


Ingelise Olesen explains that the transmission of cultural knowledge and skills from the elderly to the young through togetherness and stories have always been central to the culture. But as modern society evolves, many young people move far away from their elderly relatives, often to get an education or for work. This presents a challenge for the intergenerational transmission of knowledge, culture and skills.


And that is precisely why Olesen and her colleagues are investigating whether it is possible to create other types of intergenerational communities where knowledge can be passed on. The young and elderly who attended the summer camp were not related and did not know each other in advance. Still, they quickly managed to create cross-generational bonds and establish good relationships.


“The elderly shared a lot of knowledge about fishing, filleting and how to make a campfire, so the young people got to experience firsthand exactly how cultural knowledge is passed on. But, of course, the young people also passed on their own knowledge to the elderly. Safe to say that all parties gave something to each other.”


Meet Ingelise Olesen and hear more about the project in the video at the top of the article.


The project is a collaboration between the Center for Public Health in Greenland (Ilisimatusarfik and the University of Southern Denmark), Arctic Aging (Ilisimatusarfik and the University of Copenhagen), and selected Greenlandic municipalities.