Crossing The Age Divide | Podcast Digest
Today is local election day in many parts of England so we'll be taking a day off from writing the digest so I can try to interview a couple local politicians and network. Instead of a news digest here's a summary of an interesting podcast I listened to recently.
In the most recent episode of the BBC radio programme The Real Story the host and guests discussed the issues of the age divide, intergenerational conflict, the age apartheid and possible solutions. Below is a brief summary of the key points raised. The views expressed are those of the presenter and guests.
There has always been a divide between different groups of people but it’s a bigger deal now and our current politics fuels a binary and polarised debate. As some of the more traditional social groupings e.g. class or gender have become more fluid we’ve started looking for different dividing lines, one such divide is age.
Part of the explanation for the growing divide is that more people are growing older. Living longer means a greater gap. The society and culture you are born into and grow up in shapes your view of life. We can’t ignore these differences.
When examining inequalities age is not most important factor - the inequality within generations is bigger than that between them. Social class and gender shapes this more than age.
Many baby boomers had guaranteed jobs, good pensions, rising property and stock prices, and some young people feel these individuals are sitting on their wealth. However, the UK is the 5th largest economy in the world and the reason young people aren’t benefiting from this isn’t because baby boomers have used up all the resources it’s because political decisions have been made to roll back the state. Services that people used to take for granted are now gone, for example the government is now treating higher education as a financial business for private gain rather than public gain and social benefit.
We can turn challenges into opportunities. Sharing space, sharing time, and sharing experiences is crucial in understanding people.
In China, there is a long tradition of material sharing (e.g. buying parents/children houses) but the tradition of sharing time has been decreasing. In response, China made a law in 2013 to require children to visit and care for their parents.
In order to amplify young peoples voices and get them more engaged, we should lower the voting age to 16 and encourage people to get involved in their local communities and politics in many different ways.
There is an age apartheid in inner cities - different ages are becoming more segregated, age ghettos. Inner cities are very age unfriendly. We should continue working on making public transport more accessible and available. We should also create more communal spaces.
Generations are more segregated than before. The number of people under 18 and over 65 living in the same community has more than halved in 25 years. Age-specific interventions aren’t always a good solution, for example, cinemas shouldn’t just offer silver screenings for the elderly. Instead, they should offer it to low income/unemployed people. This will encourage intergenerational mixing.
We have created an economy where people live side by side with each other but not interacting. The loneliest age group are the over 75’s but the second loneliest are the 21-35-year-olds. Mixed housing quotas and bringing older people into pastoral roles e.g. in schools could be helpful in breaching the divide. Representation in media also matters. We should avoid two-dimensional characters but also realise that we project our own problems onto the media we watch.
Something as simple as train fares can have huge knock on effects. For example, cheaper fares can lead to better congregation in shared spaces.
The gaps between generations are there, but they are not necessarily bad. They may allow society to improve. We should encourage sharing and work together as neighbours for a shared future.
The younger generation is more communitarian than previous generations which is good. Finding common interests is also very helpful. For example, liberals in America have campaigned for gun reform for decades and now a younger generation is joining them. We are stronger when fighting for things together. If apartheid could end then the artificial divide of age apartheid can also end.