According to the World Health Organization (WHO) ageism is the most socially acceptable prejudice on the planet: discrimination against a person because of their age is more normalised than even racism or sexism. The WHO notes that ageism is usually unchallenged due to its largely implicit and subconscious nature. Because of this, it’s entirely possible for people to be ageist without knowing it.
However, researchers at Cornell University and the University of Toronto have shown for the first time that it is possible to reduce ageist attitudes, prejudices and stereotypes through education and intergenerational contact.
If we teach people more about ageing – Karl Pillemer, co-author of the research ‘Interventions to Reduce Ageism against Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, said-, if they’re less scared of it, less negative about it and less uncomfortable interacting with older people, that helps. The finding of the study is that a wide variety of educational, inter-generational or mixed programs work, so people can adapt them to their own needs.
Amongst all the intergenerational networking platforms out there, the one we love most is the American CIRKEL which connects interesting people across generations for personal and professional growth. Founded by Charlotte Japp is both a membership club for two-way mentorship and an event series (spanning from tech to fashion). It offers chances to people of all ages to learn and grow through exchanging knowledge, skills and stories. A way for bridging the gap between generations as “ageism not only affects older people who are left out of work, but it also deprives younger people of seasoned knowledge and perspective”.
Based in New York, with plans to expand in San Francisco and Los Angeles, CIRKEL events are normally introduced by a feature expert speaker, representing different generations and a multigenerational audience, followed by a networking exercise that facilitates cross-generational introductions and conversations. For people looking for a more focused and curated introduction to someone from a different generation, Cirkel Up (membership club) creates personalised, cross-generational matches every month. The idea is that each member meets different people on a regular basis who complement their skillset.