This Sunday 29th April is the 4th European Day of Solidarity between Generations.
Solidarity between generations has firm foundations at European level – enshrined in Article 3 of the EU Treaty, right up there with gender equality and the rights of the child. It also features in the theme of this 2012 European Year, for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations.
But what does this European ideal really mean, for us personally and for society in the UK?
A recent survey of ageism across Europe, commissioned by Age UK, explored perceptions of 55,000 Europeans aged 15-95, across 28 countries. It found that younger people are more likely to be seen as a physical threat – to commit crimes, for example; while older people are more likely to be seen as an economic threat – a burden on health and public services.
These perceptions echo media stereotypes – particularly trenchant in the UK – of younger people as knife-wielding hoodies and older people as hospital bed-blockers.
If we want to live in an inclusive society, it’s important to challenge stereotypes like these, to break down barriers and reduce perceptions of threat. Research shows that a powerful way to do this is to foster relationships with others who are seen as belonging to a different group.
So building intergenerational relationships is key. This is a central objective of the 29 April European Day, and the 2012 European Year. And there’s a lot happening in the UK, particularly around digital inclusion, to build on the European theme and bring generations together.
Age UK London, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Commission are holding a Spring Online event – inviting 50 older people in a digital clinic at Europe House in London, to get help with mobile phones, mp3 players, computers and social networking, from younger volunteers.
Age UK and YouthNet are also working together, as joint official charities for the 2013 Virgin London Marathon, on Run For It – a cross-generational project to end isolation and loneliness for older people, teaming young volunteers and older people to be trained in digital media.
And Age UK’s sister charity HelpAge are launching a new international campaign, Make it Ageless, to inspire young Europeans to campaign with and for older people in developing countries, living in poverty and isolation.