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Generational obsession

by on November 8, 2016

The Telegraph yesterday featured an article entitled: We need to stop our divisive obsession with intergenerational unfairness, which featured links to a report by Ageing Better highlighting the wide variety of life experience of the over-50s.

Regular readers will know our interest in the use of stock photo’s to illustrate stories about age, and it must be said the Telegraph has surpassed itself here.

The article highlights some interesting points regarding the breadth of experience of different age groups and – although this is only highlighted for the over-50’s – there is a clear explanation that this is not specific to a particular group: “inequalities exist within every generation, and there is a risk that the focus on intergenerational differences detracts from the real issues that create division – namely poverty, insecure and low paid work, and poor quality housing.”  Indeed this echoes an argument we have made repeatedly in both blogs and publications.

It is unfortunate the the article confirms an association between age and generation, and in some sense validates generational labels, although clearly rejecting stereotypes.  I think there is also more to be done to unpack the age differences of older age groups rather than insisting that all those ‘over 50’ can be treated usefully as ‘group’ or ‘cohort’ for analytic purposes.  While the idea of the six ‘types’ of ‘over 50s’ is interesting, the labels compound some of the generational language that is so familiar:

While the descriptions of these offered on the Ageing Better website hint at age differences within and between these they are not fully explicated.  For a group that underlines (but doesn’t actually define) the word evidence at every opportunity I think this is rather a shame.





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