Poppies and boys with too many brains

9 Nov

poppyWould we like to ask grandparents to post photographs of themselves and their grandchildren wearing virtual poppies in a show of support for Remembrance Sunday, we were asked at Gransnet today? We would; one of the gransnetters lost a son-in-law in Afghanistan, and her stoicism, dignity and heartbreak have affected us all.

It was nice, for once, to be asked to do something intergenerational that didn’t involve squabbling. Recently I had to go on BBC Breakfast to argue against a report from an organisation calling itself the Intergenerational Foundation suggesting that older people should move out of their houses to make way for the young. This wheeze was dreamt up by nerdy chaps who were presumably so excited by graphs showing that there are imbalances in the housing market that they forgot that people have emotional relationships with their homes. Even when children have moved out, the family home matters at Christmas and for celebrations, often enables grandparents to look after their grandchildren and remains a place of memories and meaning.

There appears to be a concerted attempt on the part of some men to set generations at odds with each other. David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, kicked off this rather unhelpful craze with his book, The Pinch, which argues that the boomer generation, his and mine, have been mean (I paraphrase) to the young. This was followed by another polemic, Jilted Generation, by Ed Howker and Shiv Malik, which complains that their generation, twentysomethings, can’t get jobs or houses because they’ve been gerrymandered by us.

They’re very clever, all these men – David Willetts is affectionately known as ‘two brains’ and Ed and Shiv actually do have two brains – but it ignores how vulnerable, insecure and cut off a lot of older people are; that pensions are everywhere under threat and healthcare costs are rising. That there appears to be no political will to pay for social care. That it is globalisation and free market economics that have done this to us, just as much as they have spoilt the young chaps’ own dream of steady jobs and nice houses in a decent part of town.

Every day on Gransnet we read stories of grandparents helping out their children in crises, looking after their grandchildren, saving to pay for children’s deposits on flats and their university fees; preoccupied with their families, worrying about the future of younger generations, volunteering, voting, caring. Grandparents take the long view. It is bankers, politicians and many of our public institutions that have lost it. The Royal British Legion can see that; it’s a mystery why it’s beyond those men with their many brains.

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4 Responses to “Poppies and boys with too many brains”

  1. Amandaamandacraig 9 November 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Well said Geraldine! Elderly people should not be coerced in this deplorable way, especially if as you say they are trying to shore up not only shrinking pensions but families in crisis. Yet I do know quite a few who are trying to downsize, and having a hard time. If property hunting is exhausting for the young imagine what it’s like in your 80s. Apparently, American estate agents much more helpful, which is why it’s common there. I’d like to see Help the Aged thinking outside the box on this.

    • Geraldine Bedell 9 November 2011 at 3:26 pm #

      What we really need is desirable, flexible, beautifully stylish (not cutesy) housing in which older people can support each other and still be part of the community. They’ve managed to do this with co-housing projects in the US and Denmark, but there is more hand-wringing than action here. Oh, and blame, of course.

  2. Donna Thomson 9 November 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    As it happens, I am going to visit my mother (aged 89) today. She lives in her own home and…oh yes…just last week offered to help with any expenses we might have for our son who has severe disabilities. Aside from the fact that my mother worked all her life to support her own immediate family (her father died when my Mum was 11), she was unique in her generation to raise children AND work outside the home. Whatever my mother chooses to do in her old age is OK with me. I think today her plans are to put her feet up and have a rum and coke along with a fag.

    • Geraldine Bedell 9 November 2011 at 3:27 pm #

      She sounds fantastic. Can I be with you in spirit on the rum and coke?

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