Americans want their political leaders to find solutions to our nation's problems without pitting the different generations against one another, according to a new Family Matters poll commissioned by Generations United, a nonprofit organization that focuses on promoting intergenerational programs and policies.
The poll found that 83 percent of respondents think that, to some degree, politicians pit one generation against another to limit public support for government-funded child care, health care, Social Security or other programs. Not such great news!
But I was heartened to see that the public rejects this divisive approach. Really, do we want to compete with our own family members for needed supports? It's hard for me to imagine any grandparent saying they deserve health care or Social Security but their grandchildren do not. Must a parent choose between care for their children or their aging parents?
"We cannot have a healthy society without valuing seniors and children," said Donna Butts, chief executive officer of Generations United. "It's not a fight, it's a family."
Here are three highlights of the poll, conducted by Harris Interactive:
- Seventy-eight percent of adults say that policymakers should make it a priority to fund policies and initiatives fostering stronger relations/connections between older and younger people.
- Seventy-six percent of adults agree that publicly funded programs targeted to a specific age group (such as K-12 education or Social Security) are not burdensome responsibilities to certain age groups, but investments that benefit all generations.
- But 40 percent of respondents say that, on a personal level, they have no regular interaction with other generations in their neighborhoods, religious communities, jobs, activities and living situations.
That last statistic is the most disturbing to me. It means that millions of Americans are age-isolated. They do not have mutually beneficial opportunities to interact with younger or older generations on a regular basis — not even in their own families.
I was happy to see the Family Matters report includes information about heartening program profiles that build on the strengths of all generations, including:
- Seniors who advocate for child care and early learning programs and schools
- Service-learning and other volunteer programs that have youths support elders or older adults mentor youth
- Intergenerational communities that support older adults, foster children and families
As I see it, these kinds of programs have proven results. But if we hope to see more of them, we need to call on our leaders to bring generations together — not tear them apart. People are obviously interested in working together across generations to strengthen our nation. Let's hope the right people are listening.