The diverse (invisible) forms of intergenerational solidarity

The diverse (invisible) forms of intergenerational solidarity

A lot of intergenerational exchanges take place at grassroots level. Philippe Seidel, AGE Policy Officer in charge of employment and active ageing made a quick scan for us… including invisible or under estimated ones such as informal care relationships.

Many of members of AGE Platform Europe have initiated projects focusing on intergenerational contacts. Senior entrepreneurs take a stake in younger peoples’ start-up, providing their experience in management and allowing thereby young founders to strive and create jobs. In Germany, volunteer ‘Senior Trainers’ take on a mentoring role with teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds and coach them in their choice of higher education.

Many older people have been engaged in citizens’ initiatives to help supporting asylum seekers during the 2014-2015 migration crisis, and continue to do so. Others facilitate intergenerational exchanges in all walks of life. All these initiatives highlight not only the contribution older people can bring to society, but also how solidarity between generations is at work and countering the idea that ageing would be a problem.

Alongside more formal volunteering (and professional) examples, many older persons fulfil an intergenerational role which is mostly invisible: care for family members in need for support – grandchildren, disabled relatives, other older persons. According to Eurofound, one in five persons over 65 spend time caring for their grand-children at least once a week. Behind this number are over 50% women who fulfil these intergenerational roles (Eurofound, European Quality of Life Survey, 2016). However, public policies do not acknowledge this huge contribution…

Although there is rising pressure on work-life balance of workers, including older workers, only few countries provide opportunities for carers’ leave. A proposal to introduce paid carers’ leave on EU level is currently under negotiations between Parliament and Council, who want to remove all references to remuneration or length for informal care leave. Against the growing gap between the needs and the availability of formal, quality long-term care services, this comes to a form of combined ageism and sexism since it is expected that older women in particular will provide informal care to their ageing relatives and as a result will be forced to move to part time or retire early.

As long as the public social protection systems do not support quality care services as well as informal carers, as long as intergenerational initiatives in volunteering and employment are not made visible, as long as these are not supported, ageism will remain deeply rooted in the way our societies are organised and our labour markets will continue to exclude both young and older workers.


Read also:

Our thematic page on ageism and intergenerational solidarity


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