BONDS: As longevity increases new ways of communcations are sought between young and old.
BONDS: As longevity increases new ways of communcations are sought between young and old. thodonal

Try taking a walk in my generation's shoes

IN TERMS of respect, a recent report headlined Societal Views on Seniors in Australia revealed a disconnect in perceptions between younger (18-44) and older (60-plus) Australians. The younger generations felt misunderstood, while senior Australians felt under-appreciated.

The survey carried out by Aveo showed that 68 per cent of millennials felt seniors were treated with respect, while in contrast 53 per cent of seniors disagreed.

A December 2018 report by National Seniors Australia, Respect for Age: Going, Going or Gone? Views of older Australians, highlighted the thoughts of its members and noted that about 43per cent of them agreed that older people deserved the respect of younger people because of their age - which meant 57per cent did not agree.

Additionally, the popular satirical online publication The Betoota Advocate (60 per cent of readers are under 34) took a tongue-in-cheek approach to perceived differences, with its story headlined Baby Boomers happy for nothing to be done about climate change until after they die.

A paragraph from the article said: "This particular generation - also known as The Baby Boomers - have been heavily criticised over the past 30 years for their inability to look past their own retirement, which many of them believe should have been the day they turned 55. However, despite their sense of entitlement, many refuse to leave their high- powered positions in the corporate sector and free up the crowded housing market by retiring to the coast or country.”

Yet, in the face of these surveys, statistics and satires, is there any solid evidence to fight back and call this "fake news”. Is there evidence to support a "connect” rather than a "disconnect” between older and younger demographics.

Ninety-two-year-old nursing home resident Gladys Biles does not think there is anything to be envious about in either generation.

"We had our own problems,” she said, citing the Great Depression and World Wars. On the other hand, she saw the younger people now tackling high costs of education and housing.

She said she felt respected by the younger members in her family. Her 62-year-old daughter Jenny has three adult children and two grandchildren. She is a regular visitor to her mother and volunteers ironing time at the facility. She feels much the same way - good and bad points in both demographics.

THE LONG TABLE: Conversations can bring families together.
THE LONG TABLE: Conversations can bring families together. monkeybusinessimages

Twenty-seven-year-old Clare Grant, a regular visitor to her grandmother in a Bendigo nursing home, echoed the same sentiment.

Additionally, in recognition of the importance of harmonious intergenerational relationships, a number of innovative initiatives ranging from housing to leisure games have been launched.

Due to begin in July, the University of Sunshine Coast (USC) and Cooinda Aged Care Centre in Gympie, Queensland, will be trialling an intergenerational living arrangement.

The trial came about through need and serendipity. In 2017, at the same time Cooinda Aged Care was building new accommodation, Cooinda CEO Robyn Kross and USC staff attended a meeting at the Gympie council.

When USC staff expressed an interest in extending their campus but noted they were hindered by a lack of student accommodation, Robyn put forward the possibility of using their soon-to-be older rooms.

Since then a feasibility study looking at nursing students paying a nominal rent to live in the older rooms in exchange for social activity with the residents has been completed, and earlier this year the idea further evolved when Robyn attended a Gold Coast seminar featuring Gea Sijpkes, head of the Humanitas retirement home in Deventer, Netherlands.

The Cooinda/USC model is loosely based on this intergenerational living model which began in 2012 and has since expanded to two more Dutch aged care facilities.

The desire to bring generations closer inspired America's Stanford Centre of Longevity to theme its 2019 Design Challenge around "ways to promote intergenerational relationships and contributions from all generations”.

Here are the top three ideas:

The So You Think You Know Your Grandma team from Berkeley University (California) developed a card game specifically targeted at breaking down barriers between members of different generations. The unique approach combines elements of both storytelling and game dynamics to engage players who may have differences in mindsets, views and perceived stereotypes.

A recent support 'Societal Views on Seniors in Australia' outlines a disconnect rather than a connect between older and younger demographics.
A recent support 'Societal Views on Seniors in Australia' outlines a disconnect rather than a connect between older and younger demographics. Artecke

Stanford University's team, the Family Room, created a user-friendly app that helps families capture and share the histories of their older loved ones through high-quality audio stories. This approach allows people with varying technology comfort levels to access the app via telephone, web interface or smartphone.

In third place was Pillow Fight from Yu7anZE University in Taipei, which created an innovative video game platform using pillows as game controllers. The team demonstrated how the simplified controllers allowed very young and very old players to play together, creating shared laughter and experiences.

The High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia has recognised the loving bond between older and younger Australians and its new campaign features young children urging their grandparents to have their blood pressure checked.

Spokesman Professor Markus Schlaich asked: "What better way to encourage our ageing population to make that step than the concern of their cherished grandchildren?”

In terms of retirement villages, Aveo Group head of care Darren Sonter said careful thought and consideration was put into various areas of its accommodation style.

"The health benefits of leading a socially rich life are well known and we understand that we have an important role to play in ensuring there are plenty of opportunities for our residents to interact and socialise throughout their senior years with friends and family of all ages,” Mr Sonter said.

"A number of our communities benefit from regular visits from local schools where the generations can bond over a shared love of music and game playing, whereas some of our communities feature a community area or a TV or media room where residents can enjoy a movie with family.”

Ultimately, increased longevity has given rise to more living multi- generations than ever before. In addition, corresponding conversations have driven disparate viewpoints, considerations and surveys.

In 2011, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 531,000 people were living with "other related persons” in the family household. By 2036, the ABS predicts this number will rise to 781,000.

Society is adjusting to these new demographics with fresh ways of negotiating relations, lifestyle and accommodation. It will take time, but certainly there appears evidence of a desire from many and varied parties to acknowledge generational differences while working towards respectful and thoughtful exchanges.

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