“The society of long life”, when four generations are likely to be living together, is upon us. The Swiss professor of political science and publisher Jean-Pierre Fragnière (founder of the Institut universitaire âges et générations) suggests constructive approaches to the social and mental adjustments that will be needed to accommodate this
Yes, we have entered “the society of long life”. We are called to live two decades longer than our grandparents, and it is up to us to give content to those years, which have the flavour of a gift.
Institutions to match
Thankfully, we have projects, because let us all agree that all this will not happen by itself… The institutions into which we are inserted, like our own lives, will have to be transformed. How? In what perspective? By what means?
How will we handle together the autonomy that has been so patiently acquired? Will we be able to assure the quality of the solidarities between generations?
Initiatives and proposals emerge from all sides. The time has come to welcome them, to support them or even simply to share them.
Giving content to those years
We are busy imagining the coming times, which are for us to shape.
Perhaps we do not wish to plunge into the (false) security of repetition of all that which has already been done, or pass with ease along the rails that many have set up “for our own good” and for our own comfort.
We are in a position where we can decide to make extensive use of our various autonomies, to leave the way open to our dreams, and to risk “something else” in order to make the most out of these intermediate and residual times that can be relatively long.
The time ahead of us is for us to manage
Whatever happens, and in the most diverse forms, we are the actors of the coming times.
Retirement years have grown longer, are more welcoming than hostile, are full of promises and happy surprises, and are open to our individual and collective initiatives, even to our impatience. We know that we cannot give in – neither to passivity nor to resignation.
“The society of long life” takes the form of an invitation to abandon our positions of relegation and retreat and to enter times of testing, invention and of a balanced individual and collective control over the “near times” coming. And if that opportunity is given to us, let us dive into the delightful arcana of the professions of great-grandmother or grandfather!
Together in a four-generation society
We will live in a four-generation society. It will be necessary to promote exchanges and share in the reception of diversity.
Family models are changing in particular because of family divorces and family recomposition.
Work is confronted with crucial changes, in its content, but also in its modalities and forms of organisation.
In the same way, retirements appear today not as an end of a career, but rather as the beginning of a new life.
But we will have to approach the future and risk it without a precise map. This is unheard of – so many challenges to take up!
In a four-generation society, “living together for a long time” and “practising solidarities” are two horizons that we are invited to welcome, to face and to address.
Yes, it is about living together for a long time! Our long life courses are well over three-quarters of a century and are growing happily and inexorably. Children, young and old coexist, all marked by strong differences. Between them, relationships are intense and diverse at the same time.
Empathy and solidarity coexist with moments of misunderstanding and even mistrust. It is our duty to shape a new way of living together for a long time, by practising exchange, sharing and solidarity at every age.
We are all very attached to our autonomy!
This is a fact and it is legitimate! But we must be fully aware that the practice of solidarity is a condition of the existence of autonomies.
The last century has been marked by multiple movements engaged in the achievement of individual autonomies. Women, children, employees, patients, prisoners, migrants et al. all have been granted their own rights.
These rights are consolidated in family relationships, in professional relationships, in relations between individuals and public and administrative bodies, of course with highs and lows. Thus, individual autonomy has been considerably strengthened and guaranteed by law.
Autonomy has meaning and is only viable if shared. Our own rights have no meaning or value outside a society that cultivates and maintains social cohesion. To achieve such a project, solidarity is the key instrument. No autonomy without solidarity!
Our publications (in French) are designed to be at the service of this project.
Photo by Mary Blackwey on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/@belokonenko
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