It’s time to create a Britain for all ages.
‘The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.’ So goes the famous quote from The Go-Between.
Life before COVID-19 seems like a very different place to the world we now live in. As we strive to work out and imagine a new future, unfortunately, some things remain the same.
Ageism continues to rear its ugly head. History will I am sure to confirm that one of COVID’s worst legacies is the stereotyping of older people as frail and vulnerable, shielded and excluded from community life.
The consequences have been manifold. Millions of older people’s lives have been severely diminished as many have been confined to their homes during the lockdown and their social contacts and activities have been eroded.
Back in January, pre-COVID, I wrote in our latest report, Together in the 2020s: “Britain would feel like a very different country for people of all ages if we made concerted efforts to tackle ageism and increase interaction and understanding between generations by 2030.”
That ambition and that vision remain just as relevant in our post-COVID country but they are even more pressing.
Generations of younger and older people have seen their lives put on hold since March 2020. And there have been attempts to pin the blame on other generations. Age segregation and ageism are rife in our society, affecting all our lives every day and running through all aspects of our lives and throughout the media, on and offline.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way if we use the positive power and influence of the media, culture and sport. The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales’ pioneering campaign to end #EverydayAgeism should be rolled out across the UK. Stopping ageism is a fundamental building block to create a country for all ages where stereotyping and myths about age and ageing are eradicated.
That needs to start as early as possible in life, with regular interactions between children and older people promoted in nurseries, schools and colleges. The media also has a huge role to play in ending ageism and the use of stereotypes about young and older people throughout its coverage. A national awards scheme could recognise best practice.
Building connections and relationships in our communities will strengthen our society as well as fostering mutual understanding – from football to technology, mentoring to public holidays and festivals.
This culture shift needs to be reflected in the way our public services, housing and community facilities are designed and provided. We need a new age of collaboration that runs through all we seek to do.
Ultimately, Britain will become a country for all ages when the ideas in our Together in the 2020s paper and much more have become the norm in our daily lives. That means talking together, sharing our concerns and passions, our choices and challenges, thereby building mutual understanding and trust across generations.
Together we can make Britain the best place to grow up in and to grow old in.
Building an ageing society that works for all generations will be the focus of the ILC-UK’s Future of Ageing 2020 annual conference on 3 December, supported by United for All Ages. More at: https://ilcuk.org.uk/future-of-ageing-2020-together-for-tomorrow/