With the General Election just around the corner, politicians are vying for our votes. The topic of eldercare is very high on the agenda, but one thing that is often overlooked is the necessity to support all members of a family to ensure each generation is considered – and are encouraged to support others.
Amidst the debate is the so-called ‘war between generations’ – the intergenerational conflict that comes with an evolving Britain.
The new government should consider this and provide for families who are facing the difficult job of choosing care for a loved one, or adapting to changes that come with the passing of time.
A divided Britain is a weaker Britain. Rather than pitting generations against each other, political parties should build on what unites us. Older people are concerned about the future of their children, grandchildren and for some, great-grandchildren. And young people are concerned about the care, health and quality of life for their older relatives.
With more diverse family structures and more families spread across the globe, we require new models of care and support at both ends of the spectrum. We have to find new ways of supporting people who provide unpaid care and ways of negotiating caring arrangements within and between generations. And how to broaden these initiatives.
This is one reason why we launched the Good Care Guide www.goodcareguide.co.uk in 2012 – because families will require different forms of care at different times in life and they want to share their experiences – and read those of others. Choosing the right care is a minefield and families want a trustworthy source of impartial opinions that will have a direct impact on their decision-making.
On behalf of United for All Ages, the think tank that aims to bring all ages together, I wrote to all political parties urging them to consider a new contract between the generations for fairer, effective taxation and spending to help unite rather than divide older and young people.
Within it I highlighted the need for a new policy to take more account of the wider, multi-generational family in today’s society. The government has to create new housing options for older people to support couples who want to downsize and free up family-sized homes for young people. But they should also recognise the rise of multigenerational households and support home sharing schemes. Universal childcare and eldercare services are essential to support and recognise the changing nature of modern Britain.
For those members of the population who are older but still want to, or have to, work – the government should encourage employers to be more supportive of staff with caring responsibilities and build multigenerational workplaces where skills, knowledge and experience are shared between the four generations now present in many workplaces.
The new government should also look at multi-uses for centres – and create ‘centres for all ages’. By making the most of community facilities like children’s centres, schools, older people’s housing schemes and care homes, it will provide thousands of new spaces across the country that can be shared across the generations.
A big problem that underpins so much of the resentment from one generation to the next is of course, ageism. One way to challenge this is to break down the barriers between children’s charities and charities for older people. By enabling people of all ages to volunteer and help each other in their community to share skills, knowledge, experience and time it will bring people closer together and reduce the gap – and also improve communication.
Intergenerational conflict is a sleeping lion that has been so far overlooked by all political parties and I believe it is our job to make them realise that the lion could wake up and cause havoc unless policy is introduced to support people – of all ages. By encouraging families and communities to work together and to support each other, it will make for a much better and happier living environment for all.
Yes it’s not a simple task, but many of the building blocks for a new contract between the generations would make better use of existing resources and maximise the contributions that people of all ages can make.
For more information on the Good Care Guide visit www.goodcareguide.co.uk, or call 0845 300 3086 and for United for All Ages visit www.unitedforallages.com, or call
By Stephen Burke
Director of Good Care Guide