The inter­play between the generations

Accept the needs of others

Both across society as a whole and within smal­ler commu­ni­ties, the inter­play between the gene­ra­ti­ons is beco­ming incre­asingly important. The increase in shared life­span due to demo­gra­phic change requi­res mutual under­stan­ding of the needs of other gene­ra­ti­ons. The Inter­ge­ne­ra­tion plat­form increa­ses the visi­bi­lity of inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal projects, and the Quin­ten lebt («Quin­ten lives») foun­da­tion is dedi­ca­ted to foste­ring village commu­nity life.

It’s very quiet. There aren’t many passen­gers on board as the ferry service cros­ses Lake Walen and docks in the off season. The coro­na­vi­rus crisis has only soli­di­fied this state of quietude. Tourist trans­port has been suspen­ded. Quin­ten. The village is loca­ted on the south bank of Lake Walen. Its Medi­ter­ra­nean climate attracts around 200,000 tourists each summer. But outside of peak season, its 38 inha­bi­tants mostly keep to them­sel­ves. Quin­ten is only acces­si­ble by boat. In 1835, the idyl­lic village was home to 171 inha­bi­tants. But like many villa­ges in the coun­try­side, people have left over the years. They are lack­ing a youn­ger gene­ra­tion. But there is still life in the village. It is fight­ing for its survi­val. The first step was foun­ding the «Quin­ten lebt» inte­rest group. The second was setting up the foun­da­tion of the same name. To reinvi­go­rate village life, they need young people to move there. 

Reco­g­nis­ing mutual needs

The chal­lenges facing the village of Quin­ten are the same ones that face society as a whole. Our society relies on the gene­ra­ti­ons coming toge­ther. The issues that affect the older gene­ra­tion can only be resol­ved in colla­bo­ra­tion with the youn­ger gene­ra­tion. «When we star­ted grap­pling more closely with inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal rela­ti­ons, it became clear that demo­gra­phic change is real, and it is only going to become more prono­un­ced,» says Monika Blau, programme mana­ger at Inter­ge­ne­ra­tion. The idea of an online plat­form came in 2010, the 200th anni­ver­sary of the Swiss Society for the Common Good (SSCG). The society runs the programme, which has long since moved beyond the digi­tal realm. The huge chan­ges society faces will be a chall­enge. Rela­ti­onships will shift. Young people will be in a mino­rity compared with the older gene­ra­tion. «That doesn’t mean we’ll stop listening to what young people have to say,» says Ruedi Schnei­der, deputy programme mana­ger at Inter­ge­ne­ra­tion. «It’s important to under­stand and acknow­ledge the needs and inte­rests of other age groups. And that works both ways.» That’s the aim of the funding programme. It wants to streng­then the rela­ti­onship between diffe­rent gene­ra­ti­ons by incre­asing the visi­bi­lity of inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal projects. It publi­ci­ses projects that bring the gene­ra­ti­ons toge­ther and connects those running the programmes.

Calling all young families

The rela­ti­onship between the gene­ra­ti­ons is important. This applies within fami­lies, between grand­par­ents and grand­child­ren. It applies in wider society, and also in villa­ges like Quin­ten. «The idea for the Quin­ten lebt foun­da­tion came from my neigh­bour,» says Joel Schmid, chair of the board of trus­tees. His finan­cial support also formed the basis of the foun­da­tion. But the foun­da­tion could not handle all of its plan­ned projects alone. Schmid empha­si­ses that the projects in Quin­ten are supported by the Hans und Hilde Schütze foun­da­tion in Zurich. «The foun­da­tion reco­g­nised that its money would go directly towards a sustainable project with us. It has been a successful colla­bo­ra­tion – toge­ther, two foun­da­ti­ons have made some­thing happen,» says Schmid. The Quin­ten project attrac­ted some media atten­tion, too – in parti­cu­lar the Dörfli 1370 project. The foun­da­tion conver­ted an unfi­nis­hed house into two flats and a B&B with a bistro. The bistro will remain open year-round. For the village. The media was parti­cu­larly inte­res­ted in the foundation’s offer of money to a young family who would be willing to move to Quinten.

More time

Urban areas are beco­ming more attrac­tive for all gene­ra­ti­ons. People are moving to the city. «Age segre­ga­tion is the same in urban areas as it is in the coun­try­side: there is a clear divi­sion between the daily lives of youn­ger and older people,» says Monika Blau. «Child­ren and teen­agers, in parti­cu­lar, have barely any cont­act with older people in their day-to-day lives.» At the same time, exch­ange between the gene­ra­ti­ons is beco­ming incre­asingly important. We are living longer, which means the shared life­spans between diffe­rent gene­ra­ti­ons are growing conti­nu­ally. The gene­ra­ti­ons need to work toge­ther. «We need projects that bring some­thing posi­tive to all the gene­ra­ti­ons invol­ved, not just ones where one gene­ra­tion does some­thing for another, where the bene­fit is one-sided or where one age group is exploi­ted,» says Ruedi Schnei­der. The Inter­ge­ne­ra­tion plat­form hosts 340 projects, all of which are based on colla­bo­ra­ti­ons that actively involve diffe­rent gene­ra­ti­ons. In Quin­ten, too, the inte­rest group and the foun­da­tion are working in many diffe­rent areas to improve the quality of life for ever­yone – from a daily postal service and faster inter­net connec­tion to trans­port links with Zurich. The most important thing is to accept the needs of diffe­rent gene­ra­ti­ons. This is parti­cu­larly important when the available resour­ces are limi­ted. «There are discus­sions and conflicts about how to distri­bute the funding,» says Monika Blau. She gives the exam­ple of educa­tio­nal funding for child­ren and young people versus funding for care and support services for the older gene­ra­tion. She points out that, «The older gene­ra­tion will bene­fit from young people who are well educa­ted now. It will be the youn­ger gene­ra­tion that ensu­res appro­priate old-age care and support in future, and that will be easier with a good education.»

Life, death and tradi­tio­nal crafts

In Quin­ten, tradi­tio­nal skills have been turned into a new source of income. The Raupen­ho­tel («Cater­pil­lar Hotel») draws on the tradi­tion of silkworm farming, which was once a thri­ving trade in Quin­ten. And one very special project run by the Quin­ten lebt foun­da­tion is curr­ently enga­ging the older gene­ra­tion in parti­cu­lar – but will impact all the village’s resi­dents. The village wants to build its own ceme­tery. «It meets a local need: the people of Quin­ten want to be buried here,» says Joel Schmid. «It is also important for the grie­ving process.» It’s not a need that might spon­ta­neously occur to you on a walk through the village. «But when it was raised as an agenda item at the meetings, a very parti­cu­lar atmo­sphere always descen­ded over the room,» says Schmid.

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