Would 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.