Our families and loved ones are more connected to us than ever before. We use technology to cross distance, but there is a risk that in doing so we are losing our connection with our elders and loved ones.
This loss of connection can limit understanding of our elders - leading to an increase in ageism and the rise of the “us vs them” attitude we see played out in the media. "Baby Boomers destroyed the economy" and "Generation Ys have it easy”, with the media continuing to play this out in the newspapers, websites, and on Prime time TV, it is time to reduce ageist attitudes that our elders and our youth experience in society and in the workplace.
Tackling this dominant narrative is important as we now have the most diverse age groups within our workforce. 16-18 years olds are working alongside individuals over 65s. Yes, 1 in 8 older Australians continue to work past retirement age. We must start encouraging more intergenerational communication and connection if we are to stop these ‘us vs them’ attitudes from alienating our workers.
We have seen amazing initiatives through the Netherlands where students and aged care residents co-habitate with huge success. There are kindergartens connecting with people experiencing dementia. There is technology training, where youth are teaching our elders the benefits of technology. These successes all show that intergenerational relationships blossom in the right environments.
Not only are these relationships cultivated, they are normalised. Allowing our networks to see the value that wisdom and youth can teach each other.
A study by the University of Kent has shown that when young and old have strong, positive relationships they display minimal ageist attitudes - and these attitudes even extend throughout their friendship networks. By encouraging and talking about our intergenerational friendships and experiences, we are supporting a change in narrative to one where being old isn’t scary, and having elders + youths develop strong friendships is something be proud of.
I challenge you to talk about your intergenerational relationships with youth and your elders online - ’normalise’ these relationship. Not only are you expanding your horizons, but also those of your close friends, family, and onlookers to more positive ageing experiences.