Tackling ageism: The transformative power of intergenerational connection
Britain is a country with a growing ageing population and yet has high levels of ageism. A new organisation is helping to tackle that.
Charlotte Miller, Co-Founder of Intergenerational England, explains how the new initiative will take action on ageism through integration rather than segregation.
Britain is one of the most age segregated countries in the world with more than half of us feeling that we live in an ageist nation.
The Centre of Ageing Better’s report, Ageism: What’s the harm? details how 55% of adults agree the UK is ageist, highlighting the alarming impact ageist attitudes have on people, jobs, health, the economy and social cohesion.
It’s well documented that our population is ageing. By 2030, 22% of people in the UK will be aged 65 and over. If we are to avoid more than one in five people being treated unfairly and discriminated against, we need to wake up to the urgent need for collective action.
Britain isn’t unique in our prejudice against people of different ages. The World Health Organisation’s 2021 Global report on ageism found that: “Every second person in the world is believed to hold ageist attitudes – leading to poorer physical and mental health and reduced quality of life for older persons, costing societies billions each year.”
One of the most effective anti-ageism strategies, recommended by WHO is intergenerational contact.
Intergenerational contact - What does it mean?
Intergenerational practices connect people across ages, sectors, and communities, challenging stereotypes and fostering social interaction.
It promotes collaboration, shared learning, mutual respect and sustainable initiatives, bridging divides and promoting empowerment and belonging.
This transformative approach inspires resilient communities where individuals from different generations and sectors come together to learn, grow, and thrive.
Through connecting with people from different generations we can learn more about them, change attitudes and increase tolerance.
Intergenerational England is paving the way to drive this forward.
We are a new initiative formed from public, voluntary, and private sectors to take action on ageism through integration rather than segregation. Fostering interactions between generations.
By bringing together expertise and resources from key organisations working to support the health, education, wellbeing, and housing needs of people of all ages across England including Age UK, What Works Wellbeing, Care England, The Co-op, Clarion Housing, HACT, Flourishing Lives, Age Irrelevance and Connecting Generations, Intergenerational England is the first national body to share best practices, research, and innovation in intergenerational approaches. It will:
- Promote respect and understanding between different generations to create a more age friendly society
- Break down stereotypes and prejudices
- Influence government policy and initiatives
- Tackle the nation’s health, housing crises and headlines
Specifically, intergenerational thinking can help address the three main areas of ageism highlighted in the Ageism: What’s The Harm? report.
In the workplace - What's the harm?
Ageism is rife in the workplace, with more than a third of 50-70 year olds feeling at a disadvantage when applying for jobs due to their age and one in five employers admitting that age discrimination occurs in their organisation
The intergenerational remedy
Intergenerational workplace initiatives can help foster a culture of learning and mentorship to counter age-related biases. Initiatives can include:
- Age inclusive policies and practices
- Intergenerational collaboration in the workplace including mentor schemes
- Lifelong learning and skills development
- Age-appropriate workplace health and safety
- Minimum wage regulation
- Skills training and apprenticeships
- Provide targeted support for jobseekers of all ages
- Influence policies and initiatives to promote equal opportunities and support career transitions
Health and care - What's the harm?
- Age can have a bearing on your access to health and care
- Ageism impacts people’s feelings of self-worth and even their health behaviours
The intergenerational remedy
Improve well-being and address health inequalities by creating:
- Innovative models, such as intergenerational care homes or community-based programs, to promote social engagement, support mental health, and enhance the quality of life for all
- Interventions and campaigns that encourage intergenerational collaboration in promoting healthy lifestyles, disease prevention, and access to healthcare services,
- Facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices between social care and health professionals to inform policy and practice
- Intergenerational programs to reduce loneliness and improve wellbeing among all age groups and its detrimental effects on mental and physical health
Homes and communities - What's the harm?
Ageism by omission leads to a failure to design and build age-friendly homes and communities.
More than 4 million people aged 55 and above are actively seeking to move properties but cannot find new suitable homes.
Only a small proportion of older people live in specialist accommodation.
Last year Cherilyn Mackrory, Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth, called on the government to provide more options for elderly people looking to move. Poignantly she acknowledged: “Not all retired people want to live in retirement villages with other retired people only.”
The intergenerational remedy
Many areas of the UK have already seen the benefits of intergenerational communities. Integrated intergenerational housing practices should take centre stage in future government housing strategies. These practices offer a solution for people across all age groups.
To ensure housing affordability, access to suitable housing, and sustainable development for people of all ages, Intergenerational England will advocate for housing policy reforms that take into account the needs of different age groups and promoting intergenerational housing solutions – mixed housing and developments for all people of all ages and affordable housing initiatives
Intergenerational learning opportunities will tackle ageism at a grass roots level. Initiatives will include:
- Initiatives that facilitate meaningful interactions between students, teachers, and older adults
- Curriculum frameworks to include intergenerational perspectives
- Teacher training and qualifications
By embracing intergenerational connection, we will promote positive attitudes towards ageing: generation by generation and sector by sector.
Intergenerational England can play a crucial role in combatting the epidemic of ageist prejudice and discrimination. Through connection we can bridge the age gap and foster social connection, understanding, and empathy between different age groups.
By integrating intergenerational practices into education, developing inclusive policies, and allocating funding for intergenerational initiatives, Intergenerational England can challenge ageism and foster a more inclusive society for all.
Intergenerational England fully supports the Age-friendly Movement to change ageism is everyday life.