Wednesday, June 29

Age is not a barrier to activism: How the UK’s Young and Old Built Bonds on Covid | Protest

Unexpected friendships spanning four – and sometimes five – generations have emerged among volunteers who participated in “crisis campaigns” during the pandemic.

Experts said the unusual link between those aged 60 and over, and those aged 20 and under, has been galvanized in part by the forced separation of generations during confinement, leading age groups to value each other in a way they hadn’t. previously.

Sam Mountfield (left) and Tony Openshaw joined forces in the Greater Manchester Older People's Network's This Is What an Activist Looks Like campaign.
Sam Mountfield (left) and Tony Openshaw joined forces in the Greater Manchester Older People’s Network’s This Is What an Activist Looks Like campaign. Photography: Kirsty Day

Sam Mountfield, 12, and Tony Openshaw, 66, of Greater Manchester, began working together on education-related problems during the pandemic as part of the This is what an activist looks like Bell.

“Tony has campaigned for so many things in his life and he’s an inspiration,” Mountfield said. “I’ve learned a lot from him, especially about not giving up if you really care about something.”

Openshaw said: “The young and the old are two groups of people who are often stereotyped and ignored. It’s great to work alongside young people like Sam and share the passion for change. “

Chris Barnes and Cecilia Allison in a garden.
Chris Barnes (left) says Cecilia Allison’s questions remind him to “never stop learning.” Photography: David McLenachan

Seven-year-old Cecilia Allison was inspired by volunteering with Chris Barnes, 66, to turn the back lane where she lives in Manchester into a public garden.

“I love all the different plants in Chris’s garden,” he said. “I like to learn from older people like Chris, who know a lot.”

Barnes said Allison “reminds me never to stop learning,” adding, “She regularly takes my breath away with her questions.”

Ruth Leonard, President of the Association of Volunteer Directors and head of volunteer development at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the two groups at either end of the age spectrum could be linked because they both feel disenfranchised by the government’s response to Covid.

“The pandemic has presented these age groups with very specific challenges and they feel they have been left alone to face them,” he said.

the UK Civil Society Almanac 2021 found that during the pandemic, the ages who volunteered at least once a month were more likely to be 18-24 and 65 and older.

Becki Meakin, general manager of the national charity Shaping our lives, said a change in volunteer patterns had led generations to mix more than usual. “Some older people walked away from their volunteer roles a bit during the pandemic and younger people stepped up,” he said. “The two age groups found themselves working together and the friendships grew from there.”

Hazel Mason and Eve Taylor in Zoom chat windows side by side
Hazel Mason (left) and Eve Taylor (right) met in a Zoom support group. Photography: none

Eve Taylor, 17, of Brighton met Hazel Mason, 72, at the beginning of the pandemic after Mason created a Zoom group, the Listening Space, where different generations could speak. “We wanted to offer ourselves as listening ears to the very young because there can be a very special bond between people of very different generations,” Mason said. “Intergenerational ideas broaden the mind and the friendship that has grown between Eve and I helps me stay young.”

“I’ve learned a lot from Hazel,” Taylor said. “Having such a big age difference offers a lot of room for discussion because you have had very different life experiences.”

Bob Illingworth and Cosmo Lupton are together on a sidewalk
Bob Illingworth (left) says he’s relearning “the enthusiasm that comes from youth” from Cosmo Lupton (right).

Cosmo Lupton, 21, and Bob Illingworth, 74, met while campaigning for the Liberal Democrats in Cambridge. “It’s fascinating talking to Bob about campaigning for gay rights decades before I was born,” Lupton said. “It has made me think about things that I take for granted when I am young and bisexual.”

Illingworth said he is constantly learning from Lupton. “It is the enthusiasm that comes from youth that I had forgotten. Maybe I was a bit like that once, but now I’m relearning from Cosmo. “

Oska Shaw and Anita Bennett pose in front of a banner that reads 'Save the trees of Baltic Wharf'
Oska Shaw (right) says her friendship with Anita Bennett (left) “has created another dimension in my life.” Photography: Mark Simmons

Oska Shaw, 24, and Anita Bennett, 65 and older, became friends during the campaign to save the M32 Maple Trees and Baltic Wharf in Bristol in 2019. “My campaign relationship with Anita has been wonderful and it has definitely turned into a true friendship,” Shaw said. “Anita’s friendship has given me a calm and supportive space to meet up.”

Bennett said he has learned from Shaw’s bravery. “The elderly have more time and we can contribute certain practical things to the association, but the young people have not learned to be afraid of things and that brings with it a kind of wisdom,” he said. “Oska is awesome and tremendously fun. Our friendship has created another dimension in my life ”.

Dr. Jurgen Grotz, Director of the Research Institute on Volunteering, said that “volunteering through the ages can break down negative stereotypes that arise from restricted opportunities for generations to understand and get to know each other.”

Peter Beresford OBE, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at London Brunel University and former Director of the Citizen Participation Center, said that there is a “natural alliance between much older and much younger people that is not talked about enough.”

“The bond comes from those generations who share the fact that they are not necessarily tied to the day to day and can be much more liberating,” he said.

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