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When I think about community spirit, Jo Cox’s famous quote in her maiden speech to Parliament rings loud and true for me: ‘we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than that which divides us’.
This is not only true of diverse cultures, but of different generations too. If you believe the headlines then Britain’s generational divide, driven by financial inequality, has never been wider. But it’s not the whole picture; what we need right now is to be reminded of how much we share and how our communities can thrive when people of different generations come together.
Young and old aspire to be happy, have meaningful relationships, good health and independence. Bringing generations together helps build community cohesion, as it highlights these shared values.
It seems then that in our interconnected digital world community does still matter after all. In some ways we’re ever more connected thanks to the internet, but in others we’re losing touch with people on our very own doorstep. A recent study by the University of London revealed that only a half of Brits know their neighbour’s name and just 29% say hello to each other.
There’s no surprise then with a loss of community spirit comes an increase in isolation. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.
But loneliness is not the reserve of old age. While the over-75s are the loneliest age group in the UK, those aged between 21 and 35 are the second loneliest. Their reasons for feeling isolated may be very different but the experience is the same.
Close to Hand aims to bring young and old together to bridge the generation gap and help banish social isolation.
I’ll leave you with the Cambridge English Dictionary’s definition of community spirit: friendliness and understanding between local people.