April 29 is EU Day of Solidarity between Generations, a date that inspires us to think about the relationships we have with younger and older people in our lives.
In 2014, I had the privilege of reading a poem by Rhiannon Reilly, (then aged 9) from Mount St Catherine's Primary School, Armagh. Rhiannon was one of the Lena Mackrel Poetry Award winners and her writing is thoughtful, poignant and insightful.
With teeth so scarce and eyes so dim
and hair that’s been white for years.
This gentle soul
sits all alone
She mirrors all my fears.
I feel the light
upon my cheeks
I’ve had this fear for years.
I see the dawning of another
Brand new day,
But still this fear stands in my way.
And this Fear of
Is my everlasting fear...
Rhiannon’s poem conveys an important and current issue that blights the potential of many intergenerational relationships and that is fear. She skillfully conveys a fear of growing older and the impact it will have on her. At Age NI, we often hear from people in later life too about their fears of the younger generation and the lack of values they share.
It’s very important to understand where intergenerational fears emanate from. Many of our perceptions of the generation divide are just that - perceptions, not reality, fuelled perhaps by social stereotyping or a lack of understanding and experience. Have a read about Derek and his son John Paul, Joan and her grand-daughter Emily or Michael and his aunt Hilary, all brought closer by the interests they share.
Our society is ageing. There are more people in NI over 50 than under 19. It’s no longer acceptable to just believe that older and younger people are different and never the twain shall meet! We are all different, irrespective of age, and that’s a positive that we should embrace. We all bring different skills, experience, views and visions to the table and there is more to unite us across the generations than to divide us.
We all want a fair society where we are treated equally and our voices are heard. We all want to be valued and treated with respect. No-one wants to feel afraid.
Rhiannon’s poem has made us all think on EU Day of Solidarity Between Generations and what a testament to her powerful writing. She has highlighted just how important it is to eliminate fear and increase confidence and understanding across our society.
That's why it is important that Age NI exists to inspire, enable and support people to love later life.
Age NI Chief Executive