Intergenerational Learning and Social Capital Essay

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Intergenerational Learning and Social Capital

The elder cannot be an elder if there is no community to make him an elder. The young child cannot feel secure if there is no elder, whose silent presence gives him or her hope in life. The adult cannot be who he or she is unless there is a strong sense of the other people around. (M. P. Somé, Ritual Power, Healing, and Community. Portland, OR: Swan/Raven & Co., 1993, p. 2)

Knowledge has been transmitted from one generation to another throughout history, often informally or incidentally. In the last 40 years, more systematic and formal intergenerational programs have arisen, with growing recognition of their integral relationship to lifelong learning and broader social purposes (Hanks
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The research makes clear how past learning needs to be reconciled with the present, in the context of…a future gaze or "vision." Externality refers to the relationships that people have with the outside world… Externality is not only about developing and using networks…It is about having the identity resource that allows one to see oneself as a member of the larger community of communities that comprise society. (ibid., pp. 286-287)

One reason to consider intergenerational learning in this context is awareness of unequal access to positive social capital and the risk that social exclusion and disadvantage will result in negative social capital (Boström 2002). The family is typically the individual's initial source of social capital, but the social changes of the last half century are having an impact on this source: increased life expectancy, greater mobility, increased reliance on nonfamilial caregivers at both ends of the life span, a more age-segregated society (e.g., retirement communities and youth culture), and decline in civic participation (Boström 2002; Loewen 1996). Economic and social changes have resulted in "changes in the social contract and evolving expectations about the relative position of generations in society" (Hanks and Icenogle 1999, p. 52). The issue of generational equity arises:

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