THE BLOG

Can Social Innovations Meet The Challenge Of Ending Age Apartheid?

06/01/2017 11:09 GMT | Updated 06/01/2017 11:09 GMT

Britain is increasingly divided, not least by age and generation.

2016 has commonly been cited as a year of division - from Brexit to Trump and beyond across the world - with seemingly a generational divide in political attitudes. Older and younger generations have been pitted against each other and blame each other for the outcomes of key votes. Underlying these headlines are multiple grievances from different generations about their economic lot.

In 2016 United for All Ages published Fairness for All Ages, setting out ways to promote intergenerational fairness. The paper contained many different views, mainly on economic measures. The debate still rages following the recent House of Commons Work and Pensions select committee inquiry report into the issue with its recommendations on financial support for pensioners.

Any fundamental economic solutions promoting intergenerational equity must address the housing crisis and the balance of taxation. Building more affordable homes for both younger and older people needs to be matched by fairer taxation, shifting the balance from income to wealth.

Our society is plagued by a growing 'age apartheid'. Much of what we do is segregated by age, particularly so for the youngest and oldest generations. United for All Ages believes more age-integrated activities in our communities can form the basis for rebuilding trust, confidence and mutual support between younger and older people across our society.

A Country for All Ages, the latest paper from United for All Ages, explores how different generations can come together and unite. The think tank asked twenty organisations and people of different generations for ideas and practical solutions that promote social integration for all ages, highlighting that we are interdependent, social and unselfish creatures.

The new paper particularly looks at how mutual understanding and respect can be promoted by people of different ages mixing and communicating, working together and supporting each other. This can and does happen in a wide range of spheres, media and activities to help promote stronger bonds in our society and meaningful interactions between generations.

By sharing our concerns and interests and sharing our spaces and communities across generations, we can promote stronger understanding between people of all ages. The new paper proposes ways to make this happen from three perspectives: building multigenerational communities; promoting two-way relationships; and new ways of communicating between generations.

A Country for All Ages is packed with ideas and practical projects already happening in the UK and abroad. The question is whether such social innovation can rise to the challenge of tackling and ending age apartheid. We can't wait for or even expect government to lead the way. Bottom up action in communities has to show what's possible in bringing younger and older people together in meaningful ways.

Ending age apartheid and promoting social integration between generations can help build a country for all ages, where we are united not divided. In Brexit Britain that must be an ambition worth sharing and pursuing.

Can we make 2017 a year when we unite and start to build a country for all ages?

Stephen Burke is director of United for All Ages - www.unitedforallages.com