UK age segregation: grassroots action making integration gains

The UK is among the world’s most age-segregated societies. Generations seldom mix outside of families. We’ve sorted ourselves into age silos, keeping young from middle and old, feeding suspicion and stereotyping between generations. Age segregation has been a key driver of Britain’s epidemic of loneliness and social isolation.

But grassroots social activists are making gains, changing institutions and living arrangements so people of all ages meet, mix and learn from one another. Without any involvement from central government, they’re bringing people together, undoing the damage of the efficiency drive of the past half-century.

Stephen Burke is a leading campaigner for intergenerational integration.  United for All Ages is the UK charity he runs with his wife Denise. We spoke in the garden of the rustic Crown & Sceptre pub in Shepherd’s Bush, west London.

Notes

  • How United for All Ages is addressing deep-rooted age segregation, which leads to “distrust and, ultimately, division”
  • “Massive explosion” in cross-generational projects in UK in past three years with no involvement from central government

    “That’s why it’s so encouraging and sustainable because people are making it happen themselves”

  • Reasons to be optimistic about UK moves to end age segregation?

    “The most amazing thing is seeing thousands and thousands of nurseries linking with care homes…or older people’s housing and care schemes. That has taken off in the last three years. That is just incredible.”

  • Shining example of co-location is Apples and Honey Nightingale in Clapham, south London, which United for All Ages helps promote
  • Intergenerational housing schemes are also being developed but next step is to include all generations, not just oldest and youngest
  • Progress being made with no government involvement beyond recognition of value of benefits

    “This is all happening because it’s happening under people’s own steam… This is a bottom-up, grassroots movement”

  • Research from Civitas think tank: 49% of 23-year-olds now live with parents compared to 37% in 1998
  • Why not change social script, quit shoving young people out of the nest when, clearly, economic conditions make it much harder to achieve independence?
  • Future plans of United for All Ages and work to end ageism in the workplace?

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