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Global Intergenerational Week: Challenging Misconceptions

The last couple of themes of Global Intergenerational Week look at celebrating intergenerational solidarity and breaking down the age barriers.
Mutual support
From older work colleagues or retirees mentoring a young person starting out in their career to a grandparent listening to, and offering advice to a grandchild going through a relationship break-up, our connections need to be celebrated for the impact they have on our lives.
Stanford research shows that ageing adults play critical roles in the lives of young people, especially the most vulnerable in society.
‘Such relationships are important for society. They can help ensure that children and teens receive the kind of attention and mentoring they often lack, especially among the most vulnerable populations,’ the Stanford scholars said.
These relationships also offer older adults opportunities to learn about new technology and trends, and experience the excitement of seeing the world through a younger perspective.
Breaking down barriers
Ageism can have a profound impact on job prospects, confidence, health, quality of life and control over life decisions.
Negative behaviours can have a huge effect on mental health, which in turn can affect physical health. The Royal Society for Public Health’s (RSPH’s) study That Age Old Problem: how attitudes to ageing affect our health and wellbeing highlights:
  • Ageist attitudes harm older people as they lead to direct age-based discrimination – which can promote social exclusion, impact on mental health, and affect wider determinants of health like employment.
  • Ageist attitudes also harm individuals who, as they grow older, begin to apply negative age stereotypes to themselves. Previous research has shown that those with more negative attitudes to ageing live on average 7.5 years less than those with more positive attitudes to ageing.
  • There is now a growing body of research evidencing the real-life consequences that negative attitudes to ageing have on individual health outcomes such as memory loss, physical function, and even the risk of developing dementia.
In a bid to challenge negative and stereotypical views of later life, the UK’s Centre for Ageing better launched the first free library showing ‘positive and realistic’ images of older people. The images show a more realistic depiction of ageing and old age – to provide alternatives to the commonly used pictures of ‘wrinkly hands’ or walking sticks. The library, which contains over 1,500 images and which will be regularly updated, offers organisations a wide selection of images that avoid stereotypes associated with older people.
Meanwhile in Australia, EveryAGE Counts is an advocacy campaign aimed at tackling ageism against older Australians.
Sharing stories
Before there was writing, there was storytelling; storytelling is universal and is as ancient as humankind – which is why it can be used to bring the generations together.
In Canada, the #ElderWisdom social awareness campaign encourages young and old people to sit on a green bench and take turns sharing their knowledge. In doing so, it aims to honour the wisdom of the elder, and end ageism.
Our partner CommonAge, the Commonwealth Association for the Ageing invited young people living in Commonwealth countries to spend time with an older person and write that person’s life story. The stories were collated and published in the free-to-download ebook A Common Wealth of Experience, Freedom fighters, child brides and other untold real life stories
As well as writing about the older person’s life, the young authors also described their experience of spending time with the older person and learning about their life.
An English young author noted: ‘I had found my kindred spirit in Margaret, as we both enjoyed walking around Windsor Great Park, playing sports, chatting, meeting people and our joint love of gin and tonics! I felt I had found a friend in Margaret and she gave me such a ‘straight talking’ description of the world.’
After spending time with 92-year-old Barbadian cricketing legend, Sir Everton Weeks, Ocean Cumberbatch Cambell (17) said: ‘I am honestly so grateful that I had the opportunity to converse with such a man, and to be able to take a look into his world and see how life was in his day. Our conversation has changed my view of the elderly, and honestly my outlook on life in general. I feel invigorated to work hard for what I want to achieve, because if they could do it with next to nothing, why can’t I?’
Intergenerational activity is about more than bringing younger and older people together, it is a systemic approach to community development and wellbeing that recognises and values the contribution of all generations who live there.
Age is just a number and the generations have more in common than many people realise.
This is why we believe standards in senior living should to be intergenerational and inclusive of the wider community, and aspects of senior living should be integrated into community infrastructure and developments.
If you’re interested in learning more about Standards Wise International’s senior living Standards and Accreditation programme, contact Nigel on: +44 (0) 203 753 5312 or by email, admin@standardswise-int.co.uk
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