6 Apr 2022


Families and Intergenerational Support

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Academic level: Master’s

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The current advancement in health care has created two issues, one being an increased number of the elderly with the second being the late onset of senility that has created an influx of a pretty old and quite smart generation with its kindred challenges (Cornwell, 2011). As a reciprocal for care during childhood, adults are obliged to cater for their elderly parents with the elderly in their 80s and 90s being assisted by their children in their 60s and 70s who are also being assisted by their children in their 30s and forties. The great-grandchildren also fall in the chain of assistance (Quadagno, 2013). However, in a world which has over 10 heads of State who are over 80 years with one being over ninety, catering for the contemporary aged takes a careful balancing act between assistance and interference with this relationship varying with culture, gender, and economic capacities of the aged themselves (Rice-Oxley & Arnett, 2015).

and who albeit in dire need of support and help from their family member, cannot be assisted since they do not find it necessary and therefore would notThere are thousands of 90 year-olds who believe they are still in the prime of their youth  allow it (Rice-Oxley & Arnett, 2015). There are also some cultures that provide for loose family connection, thus once children are of age, they grow distant from the parents and are not available to cater for them in old age (Quadagno, 2013). Other cultural backgrounds create so much animosity between children and their parents, especially male parents that there is a lasting divide that makes it difficult for any form of inter-generational support to prevail (Cornwell, 2011).

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Among the African-American community for example, it is not possible to find grandparents who are in their mid-thirties while the general grandparent age in other cultures is predominantly in midlife. This will also affect inter-generational support with a 35 year old grandmother torn between catering for her children and grandchildren or her parents and grandparent who will also be alive and around (Schans & Komter, 2010). This situation changes sharply in European and Asian countries, except India where grandchildren are born later in life; mostly in the grandparent’s 60s (Quadagno, 2013).

There also exists the issue of support between spouses as they grow old together. Unfortunately, whereas spouses need each other more as they grow, several forms and layers of differences push them apart even as their interdependence tends to pull them together. The absence of sexual connection as they tend to outgrow it is one of the fundamental elements thereof coupled with the different mental capacity as senility creeps in at different rates between the two (Schans & Komter, 2010). Further, as opposed to the future old age members, the current crop has a predominantly affluent man who is mostly estranged from his wife and a less financially woman who has a lot of support from the offspring. This matrix complicates inter-generational support (Cornwell, 2011).


Cornwell, B. (2011). Independence through social networks: Bridging potential among older women and men. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 66B (6), 782–794. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbr111 

Quadagno, J. S. (2013). Aging and the life course: An introduction to social gerontology (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages. 

Rice-Oxley, M., & Arnett, G. (2015). The 10 oldest heads of state. The Guardian. Retrieved from <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/20/happy-birthday-robert-mugabe-who-are-the-worlds-oldest-heads-of-state/> 

Schans, D., & Komter, A. (2010). Ethnic differences in intergenerational solidarity in the Netherlands. Journal of Aging Studies, 24 (3), 194–203. doi:10.1016/j.jaging.2008.10.007 

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