There are two theories about intergenerational relations. One says it’s every generation for itself. The other says that generations are interdependent and should help one another.
Consider these theories—
THEORY 1: Younger Americans vs. Greedy Geezers …
The every-generation-for-itself theory says that one generation’s gain is another generation’s loss. The stereotypical bad guys are Greedy Geezers. These elderly Americans don’t need entitlements like Social Security and Medicare but take them anyway, using discretionary income to have a second home in a warm climate, go on expensive vacations, neglect the grandchildren and squander their children’s inheritances. This theory holds that—even when older Americans really need Social Security and Medicare—their numbers are going to swamp the system, placing a greater and greater burden on younger, working Americans.
THEORY 2: Generations are interdependent …
This argument says, in the words of Generations United, that there’s a “two-way flow of social, emotional, and financial resources between generations.” This theory recognizes that generations are not isolated, but parts of families. Here’s one of many examples that is a contrast to the image of Greedy Geezers: More than 6.5 million American children are being raised in households headed by grandparents and other relatives, according to research cited by Generations United. Social Security helps to keep many of these families out of poverty. Seniors volunteer in huge numbers, often focusing on the young. And, many communities of seniors have voted to raise taxes to support public education.
What’s your experience?
Do these theories make sense to you?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.