Global Intergenerational Week 2022

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 28th April 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

I thank and pay tribute to Jackie Dunbar for securing the debate. As my party’s equalities and older persons spokesperson, I am pleased to take part.

As we know, this year’s global intergenerational week runs from 25 April to 1 May.

From its humble beginnings, the event has grown and acquired international status in a very short space of time—in just over three years. I am particularly enthused that the event in Scotland this year has been broken down by Generations Working Together into specific daily themes. The themes provide insights and opportunities to plan for the future by developing new ways to explore and discover the myriad of resources that are available across generations. It is highly encouraging to see many organisations and groups such as the Forth Valley intergenerational network, in my region, all pulling together for what is a highly important common goal.

The development and celebration of relationships between generations is exceptionally relevant and has never been more important as we emerge from the pandemic. It will help to rebuild communities, with young people catching up with their learning as we tackle and reduce ageism.

In many communities across my region and Scotland, isolation and loneliness increased as a result of the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns, as has been mentioned. I have concerns about how that is being tackled. We need to look at ways to ensure that communities and individuals can come through that. There are many stereotypes when we consider what has been happening during the lockdowns, but younger and older people alike have difficulties with isolation and loneliness.

Many residents have access to electronic devices, the internet and social platforms, but those are no substitute for the face-to-face interaction that many individuals require. Moreover, it is widely accepted that loneliness and isolation have a similar impact on mortality as that of smoking around 15 cigarettes a day. That is just one reason why intergenerational connection should be encouraged across our communities so that our neighbours, friends and colleagues can get together to interact and fight loneliness and isolation together.

As I have said, ageism can be a major blight to communities. It has serious consequences and detrimental effects on individual self-esteem, mental health and wellbeing. It is important that we consider that age is just a number and that we have more in common with other generations than we think. Sadly, ageism persists in Scotland, although there are many efforts to tackle it, which I welcome.

Ageism, loneliness and isolation impact health, wellbeing, finances and the economy and present serious consequences for individuals’ human rights. Age Scotland’s recent survey provided a wide range of information, and showed that only 7 per cent of respondents agreed that older people were represented positively, especially in the media. A massive 51 per cent of over-50s said that older people were not valued for their contribution to society, while 36 per cent believed that they were made to feel a burden on society. We must tackle those issues. I look forward to hearing what the minister says on that when she sums up.

It is especially important that we educate and encourage people of all generations to interact with one another as far as humanly possible. That is why I whole-heartedly encourage initiatives such as global intergenerational week and support it in the chamber. I wish everyone involved in the initiative the best in their endeavours to ensure that we can work together to benefit everyone in our communities, regardless of their age and responsibilities.