‘Age apartheid’ leading to divisions within communities, says report

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Britain is one of the most age segregated countries in the world, with people of different ages unlikely to mix with each other outside their own families, according to research by a social enterprise consultancy.

United for All Ages argues ‘age apartheid’ has led to divisions within communities across the country, and is aiming to help establish 500 shared sites with intergenerational care, housing and learning by 2023. There are currently almost 100 centres for all ages.

Its report, Together in the 2020s: twenty ideas for creating a Britain for all ages by 2030, said there are thousands of nurseries linking with care homes up and down the country and this should be extended to other community facilities.

It said: ‘Care homes could be opened up to be intergenerational community hubs. But that’s only the start. We are already seeing innovations that take the care home nursery model and extend it in different ways. Not every care home can host a nursery but it can link with a local nursery.’

The authors of the report, Stephen and Denise Burke, said some care homes have dedicated rooms for childminders to work from, while others have school rooms used for lessons with local pupils.

Opening up care homes could help with the ‘de-institutionalising’ of the properties and challenge stereotypes and ageism, the report said.

The 19-page document, which has contributions from Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield, Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green and Anchor Hanover chief executive Jane Ashcroft among others, said 2.2 million people live alone in the UK, with younger people more likely to live in city centres while older people are concentrated in suburbs and rural areas.

The Campaign to End Loneliness estimates there are nine million lonely people in the UK, of whom four million are older people with 1.2 million of them saying they always or often feel lonely.

‘Almost a third of 16-24 year olds report feeling lonely often or always’, the report said. ‘This has a huge impact on health, social integration and wasted potential. The annual cost of loneliness to employers is estimated to be £2.5bn.’

Despite being the most commonly experienced form of prejudice, ageism does not receive the same attention as others forms of discrimination – and ‘reverse ageism’ towards younger generations even less so, impacting on health, work, finance and business, it said.

The document makes 20 recommendations for ‘creating a Britain for all ages by 2030’. These include ending ageism, care homes as community hubs, centres for all ages, intergenerational living, homesharing, and a national positive ageing strategy.

Stephen Burke, director of United for All Ages, said: ‘Bringing Britain together is one of the biggest challenges for the new decade. The last decade saw huge disconnection and division. The 2020s can be different. Ending ‘age apartheid’ and ageism and promoting more intergenerational mixing could help create a Britain for all ages by 2030 – united not divided.

‘More mixing between the generations is the way to build trust and understanding across our communities and our country. To make it happen requires not just vision and ambition, but also political will and leadership locally and nationally.’