The Memorial Day Folk Music Celebration at Robert Frost’s Connemara Homestead is one of my favorites. Not just because of the outdoor setting, but also because it’s one of the few events I attend that’s guaranteed to attract a multi-generational crowd. The four o’clock screening of “Passion” (biopic about Emily Dickinson)? No chance to see anyone under 40. How about an evening event – Sierra Club meeting? Still more grey hairs than not. How often are you interacting with people more than twenty years your junior?
“A century ago Americans didn’t need programs to connect the generations: homes and communities housed people of all ages. But as people started living longer and moving into cities, we started thinking differently about people at both ends of the age spectrum. Schooling became mandatory, child labor was outlawed, and Social Security and Medicare made a secure retirement possible for millions. The benefits were significant, but so was the downside: the natural order of things was subverted, and the generations lost contact. Our society is now acutely age-segregated.
“What’s the harm? According to I Need You, You Need Me: The Young, The Old, and What We Can Achieve Together, a terrific new report from Generations United & the Eisner Foundation, age segregation:
- Gives rise to ageism.
- Makes social solidarity more elusive.
- Perpetuates racial, ethnic, and political divides.
- Wastes taxpayer money.
- Denies old and young crucial opportunities to learn from and help one another.
“What role does age segregation play? If the generations have little opportunity to get to know each other, it’s easier for “us vs. them” ways of thinking to get a foothold. Zero-sum reasoning doesn’t just distract us from the underlying issues and pit us against each other. It’s unethical. We know it’s not OK to allocate resources by race or by sex, so why should it be acceptable to weigh the needs of the young against the old? Look, for example, at the way generational revenge is being invoked to marshal the youth vote in the upcoming UK General Election. Or how the latest Republican budget is being framed as benefiting olders at the expense of the poor—as if no poor people were old and Social Security didn’t buttress millions of families. In nearly half of those families, grandparents are helping raise grandchildren. That’s according to a 2016 survey by Encore.org, which found that Americans have little appetite for a “generation war” and view intergenerational interdependence as a source of unity and mutual benefit—especially in these difficult and divisive times.”
~Let’s Get Intergenerational, posted on
I was in high school when I sat in front of the TV with my parents watching John F. Kennedy be inaugurated as president. The experience shaped the adult I would become in ways I never imagined. In JFK’s words, I heard the call to take an active role in my country. Today I am still moved by how this handsome, young president challenged me to take action, and helped to shape my future
~Phyllis Segal, the strategic partnerships director for Generation to Generation, an initiative of Encore.org, and a trustee for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation.
What’s on your calendar this summer? Interested in connecting with younger folks to boost the next generation while reenergizing your own cells? Every year, schools go on break over the summer. Many kids jump for joy. But not all. For some, summer is a time when learning stops, meals are scarce, and caring adults during the day are less accessible. Those that need a summer job don’t always know where to look. Safe places for exercise and play may not exist.
We can help! Encore.org challenges us 50+ to create meaningful intergenerational moments that last a lifetime by helping at least one young person bridge gaps in learning, jobs, meals and play. Take the plunge this summer: