Penn State

Matthew S. Kaplan - professor of agricultural and extension education (intergenerational programs and aging), Penn State University Park

Book Title: Ties That Bind: The Interdependence of Generations

Author: Kingson, E.R., Hirshorn, B. A., and Cornman, J.C

Book Description:

This book conveys the simple notion that the generations are not in competition, but rather are natural allies. They are interdependent. When members of one generation receive needed support and care, they are not the only ones who benefit. For example, when older adults have access to stay safe and affordable housing in their communities, they are in a better position to contribute to local institutions (e.g., volunteering in local schools), support family members (e.g., helping with child care), and assist the local economy (e.g., by purchasing local services). Conversely, when there are strong schools and service opportunities for young people, they are better able to find and enter into careers in which they make meaningful contributions to others in their community, including older adults. Ties that Bind came out at a time when a lopsided “intergenerational equity” debate was gaining traction in the media and in public policy circles. Emphasis was being placed on how resources given to any one generation takes away from the lives of other generations, as though it’s a “zero-sum game” in which single-generation advocates must fight tooth and nail to gain resources for their constituencies. What Kingson and Hirsch communicated so simply and effectively in their seminal book is that by framing policy choices as supporting either one generation OR another, in effect, masks the “common stake” and the “social compact” between the generations. It fails to acknowledge or lead to policy decisions that nurture reciprocity and resource sharing among generations. When seeking to address the complexities, trade offs, and barriers to creating a common policy agenda, awareness of the existence and value of intergenerational interdependence can help in creating a more civil society.

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