The Sunday Times says

Mind the generation gap

A programme by two NTUC organisations to pair pre-schools with centres for the elderly should pique greater awareness of the need to promote intergenerational relations. New public housing developments will also see the two generations sharing facilities. But that is not enough. The private sector too must design spaces that allow different age groups to socialise, rather than fixate on hip and youth-driven concepts.

Wider efforts must be made across society to bridge the age gap which is eroding a mutual sense of responsibility and interaction between generations. This has grown because of the atomisation of society, a greater reliance on the state, and the fragmentation of interests.

Drawing people together is more than just a social nicety. NTUC sees mutual benefits to be derived: elders gain a "stronger sense of purpose through mentoring the children" and young people can acquire "values of empathy and compassion, and respect for the seniors". Similarly, the National Silver Academy believes both youth and seniors can gain in coming together for courses, like those on social media, health and yoga. The young learn more when knowledge is applied to situations experienced by the elderly. And the latter benefit from exposure to new trends.

Particularly significant is the larger cultural benefit of such efforts. Generational solidarity is needed for vitally important reasons like building consensus on how resources and responsibilities ought to be equitably distributed over time. For example, if the present generation dodges expenses by deferring the renewal of infrastructure or the proper pricing of water, future generations will have to pay the price for the omission. And if older workers fail to plan for retirement, the tax burden of social protection systems will fall upon an ever-shrinking pool of younger workers. The bottom line is: one should mind the gap.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Mind the generation gap'. Print Edition | Subscribe