Britain is divided by age & by generation: It’s time to cherish the elderly.
Dr Wesley Key, one of the researchers involved in the study, added:
We know that a loss of social contact can damage physical and mental health, and furthermore, older people are more likely to need care from external providers if they live alone, something which is more likely among the oldest old. This places more pressure on statutory health and social care services. Measures must be taken to help them continue living in their own homes for as long as possible, whilst maintaining adequate social relations and being able to access services.
Britain is increasingly divided by age and by generation. Ending age apartheid and promoting social integration between generations can help build communities and a country for all ages, where we are united, not divided…By sharing our concerns and interests, and sharing our experiences and community activities across generations, we can promote stronger understanding and trust between people of all ages – Stephen Burke, Director, United for All Ages – Speaking to the Telegraph.
Including the elderly in our lives.
Our attitude to the elderly has been on my heart for a while. I’ve witnessed examples of ageism and social exclusion during years as a pharmacist: in hospitals, care homes and patient’s own homes. So, although the findings of the report are shocking, they don’t surprise me. What’s more, I’m convinced that even in residential homes and nursing homes with outstanding care, creating an environment where the old live with the old simply serves to accelerate their decline.
When I’m old, I don’t want to end my days sitting in a waterproof wing-backed chair in a room filled with old people. Instead, I want to be surrounded by the young. If Gillian McKeith can claim ‘You are what you eat’, I’m going to claim ‘You’re as old as the people you hang out with’. I want to be involved in society in my old age, not excluded from it. I’d like to think my life and my experiences can be put to good use, even in my twilight years. I want to contribute. I want to matter.
Before we can begin to bridge the age and generation gap, our attitude towards the elderly needs to change. We need to value and cherish the elderly. After all, many of them have served others and served their country for decades, sometimes at great personal cost. What’s more, many continue to make a huge contribution. You only have to look around at the volunteers working for churches and charities. Our large church in Nottingham couldn’t function without the tireless service of dozens of retired volunteers. We need to make sure we’re there for them when they need us, not just the other way around.
Age is no obstacle to those determined to make a difference.
I wanted to share these wonderful videos with you, which go to show that you can make a difference, no matter how old you are.
a) 91 year old Morrie knits hats for the homeless. He says it gives him purpose.
b) America’s oldest working nurse gets a surprise for her 90th birthday.
I love ‘Who do you think you are’, the programme where celebrities trace their ancestors. However, it amazes me how often information about relatives and valuable memories has been lost because the younger generation never talked about it with the older generation.
I regret missing opportunities myself with my own grandparents. For example, my grandad was a pilot during the second world war. When he passed away, so did many of his stories and experiences. When I was little, I never thought to ask. Now, I dearly wish I’d grasped all those opportunities to chat with him and ask him about his life and experiences while he was still here.
How do we bridge the gap?
So what can we do? How can we bridge the gap between the generations and tackle social exclusion in the UK?
United for all Ages suggests that care homes should allow their facilities to be used for community activities such as nursery schools. Alternatively, students could live in care homes with elderly residents, in return for reduced rents. Other ideas include holding regular street parties and opening up schools and universities for older people’s programmes to encourage mixing within the age groups.
Here’s a wonderful example what can happen if you start a conversation:
Can we do it? Yes, we can!
Although Britain needs to do more to make society more inclusive for the elderly, let me encourage you with some wonderful examples of how other countries have broken down the barriers between the generations, to the mutual benefit of all.
a) Dutch retirement home breaks boundaries and age divide
b) A preschool and a nursing home promotes growth & friendship.
Over to you.
Do the findings of these two recent studies into social exclusion surprise you? Do you know of any schemes in your area which are helping to bridge the generation gap. If you have school aged children, do their schools reach out to the elderly in their local community or involve them in activities or events? If you have any thoughts or opinions on this topic, I’d love to hear from you.
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