Group Calls for Conference, Spending on Multigenerational Services

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A new report released by Generations United calls for White House conference that addresses the needs of the young and elderly, and suggests that Congress direct spending towards “shared spaces” for increased interaction between youth and senior citizens.

Dollars set aside for school construction in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and for the creation of “multipurpose senior centers” through the Older Americans Act could be used to create facilities that would cater to – and bring together – youth and seniors.

At a time when funding across all sectors continues to be stretched thin, the report said, children and the elderly often seem to rival each other for greater access to services and financial support. In an online poll of more than 2,000 adults, Generations United found that 83 percent of respondents believed politicians “pit one generation against another,” polarizing public support for programs like Social Security and childcare.

Yet the report also shows that, with more grandparents taking on active roles in their grandchildren’s lives, the two generations are increasingly intertwined – and more than three-quarters of those surveyed (76 percent) believe that an investment in either group positively benefits the other as well.

Nationwide, one in ten children has a grandparent in their home. According to Census Bureau data, more than 2.5 million grandparents reported that they are their grandchildren’s primary caregiver.

The report “makes a strong argument that, going forward, we need to work toward intergenerational solutions and not get caught in a fight that pits one generation against the other,” said John Rother, executive vice president of policy and strategy for the AARP.

In order to eliminate the either/or mentality that would deprive one group of resources in favor of the other, the authors of the report suggest convening a “Decennial White House Conference on the Generations,” where government and organization representatives would focus on how best to “integrate services” for both groups. The new conference would replace the White House Conference on Aging, currently held every 10 years, and a proposed Conference on Youth.

The Child Welfare League of America is the chief proponent of the White House Conference on Youth, a notion which was supported in a bill authored by President Barack Obama when he was an Illinois senator. CWLA in recent months has expressed frustration that Congress and the Obama administration have not taken up the cause.

CWLA indicated it may be open to Generations United’s plan of a multigenerational conference.

“They are supportive of having a White House Conference that addresses youth issues,” said Shawn Flaherty, a communications specialist who works with CWLA. “They want to have further dialogue with Generations United to explore the idea.”

The report also recommends the reinstatement of the “student benefit” for college-enrolled students who lost a parent or guardian. Social security support to surviving children ends at 18. But from 1965 to 1983 the student benefit provided social security payments to survivors, many who whom are supported by grandparents and relatives, until age 22.

Generations United is a national organization that focuses “solely on improving the lives of children, youth, and older people through intergenerational strategies, programs, and public policies,” according to the report.

Click here to read the report.