A think tank has called for the creation of hundreds of shared sites across the country designed to bring young and old people together and end Britain’s ‘age apartheid’.
A new report from United for All Ages insists 500 shared sites must be created by 2022 in order to overcome the age divide that was revealed in the Brexit vote and the 2017 election.
The 2016 vote to leave the European Union (EU) revealed a clear divide between young and old. An estimated 73% of 18-24 year olds voted to remain in the union while 60% of those who were 65 and older voted to leave.
This same divide was also reflected in the General Election the following year when 62% of 20-24 year olds voted for Labour and 58% of the 60-69 age group voted Conservative.
In their report Mixing Matters, United for All Ages characterises this divide as an ‘age apartheid’ and argues Britain is ‘one of the most age segregated countries in the world’.
This segregation has been exacerbated by trends in housing, work and community life, the report says, and has led to trust between the age groups being eroded.
This trend, in turn, contributes to growing loneliness amongst both young and old, and poorer physical and mental health.
The report highlights the fact that shared sites — places where different age groups can mingle — increased last year. It notes, for example, the first ‘care-home nursery’ at Apples and Honey Nightingale in south west London and the first eldercare day centre at a primary school in Essex.
As well as calling for 500 more sites like these, the think tank also argues for other models of shared sites, such as the opening up of sheltered housing schemes to students in return for volunteering and support.
Stephen Burke, director of United for All Ages, said: ‘Brexit Britain is dogged by divisions – we are divided by class, income, race, geography and age. The mistrust that arises from such divisions is fuelled by the lack of connection between different generations.
‘This can breed myths and stereotypes, misunderstanding, ageism and exclusion. That’s why we believe mixing matters.’
‘2017 saw significant progress in bringing older and young people together for the benefit of all generations and our wider society,’ Mr Burke continued.
‘Many more examples can be found in other countries, but there has been a growth in the UK of ‘shared sites’ from nurseries co-locating with care homes and older people’s housing to schools, sheltered housing and community hubs.
‘While the government is absorbed with delivering Brexit, Britain is crying out for positive change. Economically, more needs to be done to address intergenerational fairness through affordable housing, wealth and taxation.
‘Socially, mixing through shared sites could provide thousands of opportunities across the country to bring people together for the benefit of all generations.
Commenting in the report, Chuka Umunna MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on social integration which is holding an inquiry into intergenerational connection, said: ‘There is growing political will to build bridges across a number of social divides, including age, which were brought into sharp focus by recent political events such as the EU referendum and the 2017 General Election.
‘I believe our APPG’s inquiry – through championing schemes and the exploration of new policy approaches – has the power to convert this growing political will into practical action.’