Bridging the generation gap

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Help children to challenge the stereotypes surrounding older people

Curriculum links

NC: Citizenship 1a, b, e; 2a, b,g, k; 3a, d; 4e, f; 5b, c, d, h; En3 1a; 9b; ICT 1b; 3b

QCA: Citizenship Unit 5 – Living in a diverse world; Unit 7 – Children’s rights – human rights

Many children do not live close to older members of their family, either in terms of physical proximity or regular, sustained interaction. Relationships between young and old can be at best, remote, based as some are, on a lack of mutual understanding, borne out of social estrangement. This article provides activities to help break down stereotypes, and encourage social inclusion across the generations.

Getting started

For both age groups, begin by discussing issues in the ‘Introduction’, such as how children feel they relate and interact with older people. Use a mind-mapping diagram to explain basic vocabulary around age groups: generation, age range, young/youth, middle age/aged, old, elderly and ageing. Ask children what they consider ‘old’ to be in terms of years. Does ageing differ depending on lifestyle and where people live?

Mind-map the positives and negatives of ageing, in terms of relationships between young and old. Some older people may not be able to play sports, but may have more time to talk, or share a book or board game. Do children know of older people who challenge the above stereotypes?

Essential facts

  • The United Kingdom has a population of 60.2 million, with an average age of 38.8 – six years more than 25 years ago (National Office of Statistics figures for 2005). This means that we have an ageing population.
  • 1.2 million people in the UK are over 85.
  • United Nations statistics (2002) tell us that there are 629 million over 60s worldwide.
  • By 2050 there will be 2 billion over 60s worldwide. The elderly will eclipse the young. This has serious economic and social implications for the world.
  • 54 per cent of older people live in Asia; 24 per cent in Europe.
  • Internationally, in 1952 there were 12 working people for every person over 65 (although some of these would still be working, too). By 2002 this was reduced to nine working people per person over 65.
  • In economically developed regions of the world, 21 per cent of men aged 60 or over are economically active. In the less economically developed world, 50 per cent are active.
  • In economically developed regions of the world, 10 per cent of women aged 60 or over are economically active. In the less economically developed world, 19 per cent are active.
  • In less economically developed regions, there are few retirement schemes. Incomes from any schemes are small.
  • The elderly are more prone to respiratory and circulatory diseases. Both make them susceptible to viruses and epidemics. In the less economically developed world, this makes sicknesses, such as malaria, often fatal.
  • In the UK, the winter (December to March) of 2005-2006, saw 200 more deaths among the over-75s, than the previous winter.
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