Uniting all ages

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

ONE of the issues that we are determined to fight in Torbay wherever we find it, is ageism.

Like other isms – sexism, and racism, it is insidious and damaging, but ageism is a relatively recent development, but no less serious for all that.

Until only a few decades ago extended families lived together – children with parents, and often with grandparents, something that remains the norm to this day in many Mediterranean countries.

It is a win, win. The children get the benefit of decades of accumulated knowledge and wisdom, and the parents get the support of their own parents during what can be difficult and testing times.

On a practical level, the parents also get unpaid childminders by day, allowing them to continue to work and baby sitters by night to enable them to continue to socialise. And the children get older, more indulgent kind and loving relatives who are mostly on their side. What’s not to like?

But sometime after the war as we became more prosperous, our families became smaller in terms of the generational span and children and young people had less and less interaction with older people.

Parents began having children later in life and living greater distances from their own parents. Not to mention that lives seem busier nowadays. Add to this the fact that our lives are becoming more segregated and accommodation for older people is, more often than not, set apart from where younger generations live.

At last, it is being recognised, and there is a movement to reunite the generations and promote a better understanding between them.

Some are innovatory, like mixing young people’s accommodation with elderly people’s housing in Helsingborg in Sweden. Under 25’s can live there for reduced rent as long as they commit to a few hours of conversation with their older housemates each week.

Genius, both generations keep each other company, learn from each other and neither are lonely as is so often the case when living as single people. They live together in a converted old people’s home with lots of shared spaces where they can come together to enjoy each other’s company.

They make meals and eat together, they play games together – the likes of tabletop football and pool rather than Mortal Kombat or Call of Duty, and they make things together in the arts and crafts room.

Young people found that having left home, they might go out to work and then return to their flats to play screen games, never speaking to anyone outside the workplace. Older people, many of whom found themselves living alone again after bereavement after decades of sharing their homes with a loved one might not speak to anyone for days on end.

Now the younger people can share their knowledge of the technological world around them, not least the internet and social media and the older people can put life in context with historical perspectives.

Torbay Council, if you are reading this, it is all done under the auspices of the local authority, and they are so pleased with it, they are looking at creating more. As we have shown through Ageing Well Torbay happiness and less loneliness leads to better health and fewer visits to the doctor. The same is true of young people.

The UK’s first National Intergenerational Week takes place from 23rd to 29th March 2020, and we at AWT are working with our colleagues at Imagine This… a project with young people looking to overcome a variety of issues including loneliness to make Torbay a better place to grow up in.

We will be joining colleagues not just in Torbay, but across the country to discuss ways that we can bring the generations together to promote understanding and will be boasting our successes with the hashtag #IntergenerationalWeek

The organisation behind Intergenerational Week is the St. Monica Trust who have spotted the need to bring the generations back together to prevent wedges being driven between them.

They recognise that the further apart the generations become then isolation can begin to creep in along with a poorer understanding and awareness of each other.

In their own words: “It’s a downward spiral where negative stereotypes and attitudes can take hold all too easily. We think it’s about time we change the way we do things. It’s time to say no to the age gap.”

And that is something we at both Ageing Well Torbay and Imagine This… can endorse wholeheartedly.