Intergenerational Bond Keeping Families Afloat During the Recession – New Report Finds

NUI Galway’s Professor Thomas Scharf; TCD Professor Virpi Timonen; Author, Roisin Ingle; Dr Catherine Conlon, and Gemma Carney, NUI Galway
Apr 17 2013 Posted: 16:00 IST

Family networks and a strong bond between young and old are keeping many Irish people afloat during the recession, according to new research on the relationship between the generations launched today, Wednesday, 17 April, 2013 at 2pm.

The Changing Generations study, carried out by Trinity College’s Social Policy and Ageing Research Centre (SPARC) and the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology in NUI Galway, involved interviews with 100 men and women aged between 18 and 102 living in Ireland as well as interviews with 20 leaders from the public, private and civil society sectors.

The research sheds light on how people of all ages are coping at a time of great challenges for the Irish economy and society. In particular, the research focused on relationships between different generations in Ireland against the backdrop of economic recession and demographic change.

The research found that people in Ireland practise and value intergenerational solidarity in every aspect of their lives. The report demonstrates how family members are providing high levels of support to one another through periods of unemployment, emigration and financial difficulty. In many instances older generations are providing extensive financial, housing and childcare supports to younger generations.

Strong views of solidarity between the generations were expressed by all age groups who participated in the research. The general view among younger participants in the research was that older people’s welfare entitlements are deserved and must not be cut. Older people who expressed desire for improved age-related benefits also tended to call for improved supports for some younger age groups.

Socio-economic inequality, rather than differences between the generations, was identified by researchers as the most significant division in Irish society. In households where economic resources are most scarce, young people opt to close down options, such as further education, travel or job seeking, that are taken for granted by their peers in middle and higher socio-economic groups.

Speaking at the launch of the report in Dublin, Professor Virpi Timonen, Director of the Social Policy and Ageing Research Centre in Trinity College Dublin, said: “Our research points to strong solidarity between generations in Ireland. This is an abiding strength of Irish society. Solidarity between family generations is perhaps the most important reason why Ireland is managing to maintain a reasonable degree of social cohesion under massive economic pressure.”

Professor Thomas Scharf, Irish Centre for Social Geronotology, NUI Galway, added: “Our research shows the strong bonds between young and old in Ireland. These bonds are not only helping people to cope with the current recession. They also provide a solid foundation for the future welfare state, which will increasingly depend on the give and take between the generations.”

Changing Generations was launched by Irish Times journalist and author Róisín Ingle. The launch was followed by a panel discussion entitled 'Challenges and Opportunities for Intergenerational Solidarity in Ireland’ featuring Patricia Conboy, Director, Older and Bolder;  John Lonergan, author and former Governor of Mountjoy Prison; Karen Kiernan, Director, One Family; and John Logue, President, Union of Students in Ireland.


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