Golden time at Colliston Primary School, just outside Arbroath, starts at 2.30pm on Friday afternoon and sees the older children heading off in small groups, or individually, to the activity of their choice. It is heart-warming to see them all purposefully engaged in something they really enjoy.

Half a dozen make their way to the knitting group. It is very much like any other knitting group, with everyone getting on with their own piece of work, and the tongues going just as fast as the needles. The difference is that children's average age is nine, while their helpers is - shall we say - much older. It is volunteers from Colliston WRI who come in to teach the children to knit, to encourage them and help them improve their skills.

Nancy Myles, President of the WRI, likes this chat as much as the passing on of a traditional skill. "It's great, and they have learned new words," she explained. "One afternoon, one of the ladies said, 'Och, you have got yourself into a fankle', and the children just loved it!"

The knitting group came about when the WRI received a donation of craft material following a death, and once they had all taken what they could use, and there was a huge quantity of wool left over, they thought they could donate it to the school. The teachers responded by asking if some of the ladies could teach the children to knit.

So began a very fruitful partnership that is now in its third year. The children started off knitting squares, 25 stitches by 25 rows that were knitted into blankets and taken to the Special Care Baby Unit at Ninewells hospital in Dundee. This seems to have been quite a highlight for the novice knitters who went with the WRI ladies to deliver them.

When I asked them what they liked about the knitting they said they liked to know that they are helping the babies, and told me how some of them went to present the blankets to the hospital and were able to see the babies.

Some of the youngsters have now progressed to knitting hats for the premature babies, using the WRI pattern, which includes a rib and shaping. Nancy said: "They are keen to try new things, to test themselves." In a further collaboration, at least one Mum has also taken home the pattern and knitted some of the little hats.

It is clear that the WRI ladies (as they are known in the school) get a great deal of satisfaction from the venture and enjoy getting to know the children, while the children love learning these new skills, and hearing stories from an older generation.

Even one of the more senior members of the WRI, Sheila B Smith, who no longer comes to the meetings was able to be involved. The retired teacher knitted all the fruit eaten by the eponymous hero of the popular children's book, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", and came in to the school to present them to the nursery children.

But this is a partnership that keeps on growing. The school recently set up a parent’s curriculum group, working under the Partnership Schools Scotland's programme, one of whose aims was to have a gardening club at the school. And who did they turn to for help? Of course... so now a separate group of WRI volunteers comes in to run the gardening club, which has gone from small beginnings, growing herbs and flowers, to planting potatoes, onions and strawberries in raised beds (tattie boxes provided by a relative of one of our formidable ladies, and painted by the volunteers), to taking part in the Royal Horticultural Society's School Gardening Awards. They have recently planted fruit trees, and there is so much gardening going on that a polytunnel is now on its way.

The head teacher, Lorna Higgins, has been delighted with the way this venture has grown, and was amazed when the ladies even volunteers to set up a rota to come in to water the garden during the long summer holidays. The children have proudly taken home hyacinth bulbs and are currently keeping a close eye on the daffodils bulbs they potted up for Mother's Day.

Of course, any good partnership goes two ways, and the school is happy to return the many favours they receive. The older children go over to the Village Hall - which they use for their school dinners, gym and any concerts, and the WRI use for their monthly meetings - on the third Tuesday of each month to set out the chairs and tables , no small feat given that this is one of the biggest groups in Angus. Ashleigh, who is 10-years old, said: "We have a floor plan so we know where the tables and chairs have to go, and it is good knowing that we are helping in this way." The children have in the past entertained the meetings with their songs and poems, and many of the WRI ladies were thrilled to accept their invitation to attend the school nativity.

This co-operation would surely gain the approval of researchers currently looking at social isolation of older people, who have found enormous benefits to inter-generational activities. Increased social interaction is linked to a reduced risk of disease in elderly people, as was highlighted in last year's Channel 4 documentary "Old People's Homes for Four Year Olds". Residents of Bristol-based St Monica Trust were found to have improved moods, mobility and memory after six weeks in which the youngsters' nursery moved into their care home.

Child psychologist, Dr Nia Williams, studied a similar initiative in Wales, when a group of six children aged three and under from Plant Parciau nursery in Caernarfon, visited Maesincla Daycare Centre for three consecutive days, taking part in activities overseen by academics from Bangor University. She saw many benefits for the children, as well as the older people. "I saw an improvement in language development, and noticed that the amount of attention the children were receiving was causing their confidence to increase," she said.

In short, studies show that having young children interacting with older people makes everyone feel a little happier. Japan led the way with the first formal combined nursery and care home opening in Tokyo in 1976, in what is now an established trend.

By the 1990s the idea had moved to America and Singapore has recently committed £1.69 billion to provide 10 new projects combining childcare facilities and senior centres as part of their national plan to help Singaporeans age confidently and lead active lives.

While these studies are concerned with the elderly who need care and pre-school children, it makes sense to suggest that older people interacting with children before they reach the elderly stage must be a good thing for everybody. A further bonus for Colliston is that now some of the school Mums have joined the WRI, so adding another generation to this wonderful group.