- Brendan Birth
A Perspective on What it Looks Like to Be Intergenerational
The Vision Statement of Gray Panthers NYC is: “The Gray Panthers envisions a world where the old and the young have much to contribute to make our society more just and humane, and in which each reinforces the other in goals, strategy, and action.”
This Vision Statement dovetails with an intergenerational vision that has been part of the Gray Panthers ethos since Maggie Kuhn founded the organization in 1970. But what does this vision look like, or what might this look like, in practice when there are so many issues where it is portrayed as young versus old, instead of young and old?
Each person’s answer to this question might be different, even among those who are involved with Gray Panthers. But here is mine, speaking as a Board member of Gray Panthers NYC who is in his twenties…
For starters, it’s important to realize that issues affecting older persons don’t just affect older persons, and issues affecting younger persons don’t just affect younger persons. Even now, there are certain issues that are belittled because they are viewed as “older person issues” (like the deplorable conditions of some nursing homes) or “younger person issues” (like student loan debt). However, in both of the examples I give, as well as many others, the people impacted by the issues go beyond the older persons living in poorly run nursing homes, and the younger persons dealing with student loan debt.
Consider the fact that:
The people affected by the poorly run nursing homes are not just those who live in them, but families and friends of theirs of all ages.
The people affected by the student loan debt are not just younger persons with the debt, but families who may need to subsidize them to some extent financially while they are paying off the debt.
Issues like these two also have a common thread that should unite, instead of divide, generations of Americans: the systemic problem that we see so often, it’s the profits of those at the top instead of the wellbeing of those in the middle and bottom that are prioritized.
That problem is not just an issue older people or middle-aged people or younger people face. It is an issue that most Americans face.
Perhaps we need to start by recognizing that the issues portrayed as young versus old aren’t actually that way – issues affect young AND old. The young and the old need each other to accomplish common goals to ensure dignity and wellbeing for all of us.