Spain is today more multigenerational than ever. In the longest-lived society that has existed, at least five different generations coexist. But that they coincide does not mean that they interact or cooperate with each other.
From the surveys carried out by the Center for Sociological Research (CIS) and Imserso, it can be deduced that intergenerational relations, especially in the case of the population over 65 years of age, are very circumscribed to the family sphere. According to the 2018 senior report, only 37.6% maintain ties of friendship with someone under 35 years of age; and young people also do not deal with seniors who are not their parents or grandparents. In fact, 80% of the relationships of the elderly are with people of a similar age.
“There is a difference between multigenerationality and intergenerationality; inter refers to the capacity that we have, people and entities, to take advantage of this diversity, to make people of different generations not only spend time together but also do things together, learning from each other, contributing and improving themselves”, explains Eleonora Barone, intergenerational innovation consultant who leads the mYmO project and author of the guide recently presented by the International Center on Aging (Cenie) on this issue.
His is one of the many voices that have begun to speak of the need to create meeting and interaction scenarios for inter-network relations in the public space, in the world of work and in the family. And not only to avoid problems of isolation and loneliness of the elderly, but as an essential tool in a society where longevity no longer allows us to conceive of life in three or four stagnant stages and which needs to be built together so that everyone wins, young people , adults and seniors, favoring affections instead of encouraging possible fights of generations.
In this regard, Juan Martín, head of the Cenie, points out that a long-lived society is not a society of old people, but one where its members live for many years, and that such a long life cycle also conditions young people, who will have to worry about taking care of health, for having a training offer that allows them to enter and leave the labor market at different times of their lives, for having financial resources until the end of their days...
And in case anyone doubts that young people are interested in associating more with the elderly, Martín recalls that “in 2050 those over 65 will be more than 30% of the population and more than 40% of the electoral body. And what will they claim? Policies that favor them. And the organizations that want to attract that vote will take measures for that electoral group, and that can lead us to a great social failure by way of generational clash”. Without forgetting, he points out, that the pension system is based on intergenerational solidarity and that for this reason it is essential that any change be planned with the intervention of people of different ages.
Barone points out that intergenerationality is not only showing solidarity, but knowing that we are interdependent "and it is the way to achieve the necessary cohesion and the best way to make the most of people's talent, whether junior or senior". But, the consultant points out, it does not consist of bringing together older and younger people in the same space without further ado, because that carries risks and instead of facilitating a rapprochement it can contribute to reinforcing age stereotypes or aggravate existing conflicts.
The goal, he says, is to work with an inclusive vision, stop packaging people by age and bring them together for shared motivations and objectives, in public services and in companies. “Two 50-year-old employees may not share a job generation if one has been with the company for five months and the other for 15, and, on the other hand, a 30-year-old worker and another 70-year-old may be from the same company because they both use a wheelchair; and that also happens at the university, instead of offering differentiated itineraries and courses for young and old, they should be established by objectives -whether you want to work on it or not-, or by educational level ”, she exemplifies.
José A. Herce, PhD in Economics and founding partner of LoRIS who has also participated in the development of the Cenie guide, emphasizes that the interaction of people of different ages brings not only social benefits, but also political and economic ones.
“Older people treasure experience and loyalty to the business culture, some extraordinary virtues that mean that we cannot discard them or act as if they did not exist; there is an objective need to use senior professional force because there is a lack of qualified talent, ”she says.
He adds that not discriminating against employees based on age, promoting spaces for co-living and coexistence so that older people transfer knowledge to younger ones can also help encourage political participation and balance more or less conservative demands.
“Older people vote more, they have had a more active political participation, they have lived through the recent history of the country and they can contribute to make it known to young people so that they do not remain off the hook and on the margins”, indicates Herce.