By Veronica Fonseca
In Part 1 of this article series, we looked at ageism and how it manifests in our everyday lives. The good news is that as unnerving as these manifestations may be, the fight against ageism has fortunately already started on global and local levels. However, there is still much more we can do to change our attitudes and perceptions for the better. This article explores what is currently being done in the fight against ageism and what more we can do as individuals to combat it.
Combating ageism and promoting intergenerational relationships
1. Addressing Care Gaps
Intergenerational solidarity refers to the degree of closeness and support between generations. Promoting social cohesion and quality relationships between family members can help to address the gap in care services, especially with the increase of dual-income families. Parents who find they have reduced capacity to care for their child’s needs when at work can enlist the help of their own parents. As the adage goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Grandparents who take care of their grandchildren can help meet a child’s care needs while improving the work-life balance for parents.
2. Inclusive and Crucial Policies
Strong intergenerational solidarity can help ensure that policies are fair and inclusive, and tackle issues that all ages feel are crucial. Instead of the divisive mentality of ageism, intergenerational solidarity promotes understanding and care between different generations. Such unity allows us to consider the needs of others and provides a space for healthy communication between generations.It increases our ability to empathise with others and support fair policies that reflect issues that are important to people of all ages.
3. Reducing Deviant Behaviour in Youths
A study on the impact of mentorship on youths saw that having an adult mentor is seen to reduce deviant behaviour in the young. This includes a 46 percent difference in drug use, a 50 percent difference in school truancy, and a 33 percent difference in violent behaviour. Mentors were a pillar of support and also a friend to the youths. Such a relationship encouraged youths to achieve transformative goals.
4. Improved Health and Happiness in Adults
Older adults also benefit from relationships with younger people. This is especially so when they partake in caring, investing and developing the new generation. Psychiatrist George Vaillant highlighted in one of his books on ageing that such concern and action for the new generation, also known as generativity, resulted in adults being three times more likely to be happy than those who did not partake in generativity. It also showed an improvement in the mental and physical health of older adults.
There is much for us to benefit from combating ageism and fostering bonds between generations. Thankfully, actions against ageism have already started on international and local levels.
As part of the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing project, the World Health Organisation (WHO) champions the World for All Ages campaign, often stylized as the hashtag #AWorld4AllAges. The campaign has three main objectives:
- To generate an evidence bank to help us better understand ageism. This knowledge bank also allows the WHO to work on developing strategies to measure and reduce ageism.
- Functions as a global coalition in our fight against ageism. This can help us improve data collection, share knowledge, and coordinate efforts.
- To raise awareness through events and capacity building programs.
On a local level, our government has also tried to reduce ageism in workplaces and public spaces through different organisations and initiatives. At the workplace, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) allows employees to report on age discrimination at workplaces. They also provide a senior worker support scheme to hire and retain older workers and provide information to employers on creating an age-friendly workplace. Workforce Singapore also ensures upskilling opportunities for all ages by providing a plethora of courses. This provides an alternative avenue for workers to upskill if the option is not given at their workplace. In public spaces, areas such as silver zones and school zones help to ensure accessibility for all. Facilities such as the option for longer crosswalk duration and the lower speed limit for vehicles. Here it is important to note that while the term ‘silver zone’ may denote that the area is built to aid the old, there are also positive spillover effects as these safety precautions are not exclusive to the old. Such measures cater to all populations who have reduced mobility, as well as younger children who are still learning about road safety. Inclusive infrastructure designs are beneficial for many – a bonus for combating ageism.
What can individuals do? While organisations can spearhead actions against ageism, the pervasiveness of ageism in our everyday actions requires individuals to act against it. This first begins with individuals putting in the effort to educate ourselves on ageism and what we can do about it. Understanding this allows us to recognise ageism when it appears in our everyday lives and prevent us from condoning it. Individuals can also actively maintain intergenerational contact not only among family members but also by participating in activities in the community. The interactions and relationships built from intergenerational contact allow us to understand other generations better, especially on a personal level. From here, we can better empathise and show compassion for other generations, which will translate into reduced ageist actions and attitudes.
While the idea of ageism as an issue may not yet be prevalent in many individuals’ minds, its impacts are already present in our everyday lives. There is room for us to learn more about ageism and combat it to improve our ageing experience.
All images via Rawpixel.
|Veronica Fonseca is a Business Management Undergraduate, majoring in Communications Management and Global Asia, with the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University.