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  • Writer's pictureEmily Abbott

Intergenerational Connectivity: A Timeless Thread in a Changing Tapestry

Intergenerational connectivity, the exchange of experiences, perspectives, and information among individuals spanning different age groups, is not a novel phenomenon. Rather, it is deeply ingrained in the fabric of cultures and traditions across the globe, serving as a bridge between generations for centuries (Smith, 2010; Bengtson et al., 2013). As we navigate the complexities of modern society, it becomes crucial to recognise that these practices have endured through time, shaping societies and fostering a sense of continuity and cohesion.


Cultural Dynamics and Intergenerational Connectivity:


Understanding the dynamics of intergenerational connectivity requires an exploration of the contestation of identity, inclusion, and diversity. The varying perspectives across generations on these matters can be influenced by cultural, social, and historical factors (Hogg et al., 2017). For instance, older generations may hold different views on diversity, shaped by the societal norms and experiences of their era (Regnerus & Elder, 2003). Language, a significant aspect of culture, can also be a point of contention, with different generations having diverse attitudes towards inclusive language (Greenfield et al., 2003).


Intergenerational Differences as Crucial Factors:


In England, as in many other regions, the intergenerational divide can be as pronounced as differences between ethnic or faith groups. Each generation is moulded by the social and cultural context in which they grew up, influencing their perspectives on identity and inclusion (Bertaux & Thompson, 2005). Recognising these intergenerational patterns is vital for identifying shared values and common ground between generations.


Challenges and Opportunities in Intergenerational Projects:


The recognition of intergenerational differences opens up challenges and opportunities for projects focusing on identity, inclusion, and diversity. Bridging gaps in perspectives, addressing biases, and valuing the wisdom of older generations are crucial challenges. However, these challenges also present opportunities for leveraging the unique strengths and experiences of each generation. Intergenerational projects can benefit from acknowledging and accommodating these dynamics, creating spaces for constructive dialogue and learning between generations (Coleman, 1988).


Moving Forward:


The conversation surrounding intergenerational connectivity extends beyond theoretical discussions. Initiatives such as creating spaces for intergenerational connections through sports, nature, music, and theatre (Rosenthal, 2011) underscore the practical aspects of fostering connectivity. Grassroots projects, like Intergenerational Music Making (IMM), emphasise the importance of local efforts in promoting connection across sectors such as healthcare, education, and the arts (Smith, 2010).


Challenges in voluntary participation and the need for intentional strategies to bridge generational and cultural gaps are acknowledged, emphasising the importance of addressing inherent challenges (Berry, 2005). Geographic variations and intergenerational challenges are recognised, highlighting the need to understand and address specific challenges faced by different regions in promoting intergenerational activities.


Looking through the Lens of Change and Diversity:

The changing landscape of Britain, marked by increasing diversity, presents both challenges and opportunities for intergenerational engagement. The country's evolving demographics, coupled with different age profiles within diverse groups, contribute to a complex interplay of challenges and opportunities. Recognising and understanding these changes is essential for devising strategies that address the evolving needs of society.


As the country becomes more diverse, challenges may arise in fostering bridging contact across geographies, especially in areas with varying levels of diversity. Addressing gaps in perception across generations, particularly in areas such as education and age, becomes crucial for building a more inclusive and cohesive society.


In conclusion, intergenerational connectivity is not a new concept, but a timeless thread woven into the cultural tapestry of societies worldwide. Recognising its significance and understanding the challenges and opportunities within the context of a changing and diverse society lays the foundation for creating meaningful intergenerational engagement. Central to Intergenerational England’s approach is a commitment to a learning-oriented mindset. We understand that the seamless integration of intergenerational activities in certain communities is often a result of nuanced cultural practices. Our aim is to glean insights from these communities and learn from what works to support intergenerational understanding on a broader scale. By emphasising the myriad benefits – not only for individuals and households but also for fostering community cohesion at a macro level – we hope to instill a deeper appreciation for the significance of intergenerational connections across society.


“Across our lives we naturally engage with people who are like us – but that can create social distance between people who are not, a sense of ‘them and us’ across different ages or backgrounds. This can make people feel isolated, anxious or even threatened. Yet actually there is so much that connects us. We need an approach like Intergenerational England’s, that gives different generations more points of contact with each other, and reassurances about our fellow citizens.”

SUNDAR KATWALA, Director,

British Futures Thinktank

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