As we work through the implications of the EU referendum results we are left with lots of questions but little clarity about the practical impacts of this ‘brave new world’ on all our lives.
Debates continue to rage about the political and financial ramifications of the votes cast by over 30 million people across the UK on 23 June 2016 and the extent to which the electorate in Northern Ireland, Scotland and London, who voted remain in the EU, are listened to and reflected in post EU arrangements.
The EU Referendum was marked by strongly held, passionate views expressed by both remain and leave supporters. Recent media discussions have focused on how the voting patterns in the EU Referendum expose a divided society, with some characterising it as an intergenerational clash, with young people angry at the selfishness of older voters who have ‘deprived them of their future’. The denigration of older people, particularly on social media, is unfair, inaccurate and wrong.
We know that older people are more likely to vote than younger people, a fact confirmed by turnout figures showing that more than 4 in 5 older people over 65 voted in the EU Referendum compared to more than 1 in 3 younger people. A more in-depth analysis of voting patterns, however, shows that the picture is more complex and that people of all ages hold a wide range of views and voted accordingly. There are indications that a number of factors, including class, income, identity, and geography, as well as age, explain the final result. Many polls indicate that nearly 2 out of every 5 older people voted to remain, with 3 out of every 5 voting to leave.
The recent stereotyping of older and younger people is not only misleading but may undermine intergenerational solidarity and constrain the appetite of younger and older people to work together for a fairer, more inclusive and sustainable society for the benefit of all generations.
This damaging portrayal of the relationship between young people and older people is in marked contrast to the strong intergenerational links that exist and are valued by individuals, families and communities. Older people are passionate about issues which face their children and grandchildren. They want the decisions made by our policy makers and legislators to impact positively on generations to come.
Rather than engaging in unhelpful and potentially damaging rhetoric, let us seek ways and opportunities for people of all generations to come together, to reduce the fear and mistrust that exists and to build a better future for us all as we age.