Italy has long had a reputation of respecting, supporting, and ultimately caring for its senior generations, which has led to an inclusive and codependent intergenerational society. Indeed, in one review by the Japan Times – another country dealing with the impact of a broadening age pyramid – the preference of Italians in finding in-home ways to care for senior relatives is well renowned. While this has posed problems in the past (the relatively severe impact of coronavirus was thought to be due to the closeness of vulnerable seniors to younger relatives), there’s compelling evidence that this intergenerational community, both in the home and wider, in towns, combines to create a greater strength.
Creating harmony in neighbourhoods
There has, according to analysts, been a broadening generational divide in Europe. This is especially noted in countries like Germany and the UK, where the relative fortunes of the senior generations compared against the embattled young adult generations of today has led to a sense of discontentment. This, in turn, does have a noticeable impact on the cohesion in society and relative happiness between different groups. Italy, of course, has been shown to pursue a different path.
Age inclusive communities are shown to be cohesive, where older generations can enjoy the help and assistance of those younger, and in return they can impart wisdom and advice on those younger generations. Furthermore, issues over misunderstanding between the different sections of society over norms are broken down due to conversation. It can be easy to see generations opposite to your own as ‘others’ due to the huge changes that societies have experienced over the past century. The effectiveness of this approach, both in aiding younger generations with inclusivity and in protecting senior generations, is well understood.
Age friendly characteristics
The benefits of communities with a dispersed age was studied in a 2023 publication for the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Profiling Macerata, Marche, a town with a very even spread of ages from 25 upwards, the study noted how a relative lack of services and poor infrastructure was nevertheless not a detriment to good health in all generations. Key in their understanding were two factors.
Firstly, despite elderly respondents to the survey being generally dissatisfied with city services, they said that this was offset by the great sense of community. Secondly, the mix of rural and urban style settlement was key to creating a blend of everything good about Italian society. Clearly, intergenerational communities make themselves happier by association.
Finding the balance
Look no further than the famous Campodimele, Lazio, as an example of where young and old can dovetail perfectly to create circumstances that can bring almost unprecedented levels of health and happiness. As CNN highlights in their profile of the town, a study conducted found that the relatively low level of human interaction and disturbance in the local ecosystem allowed for the growth of very high quality, organic produce.
Since the publication of that report, the town found a lot of new interest – including from younger generations – though they had existed there for quite some time. The result today is a reinvigorated town that preserves its frozen place in history. There was an outflux of young people, and that created huge strains on the community. That they are now returning, helping to redesign and rebuild the town centre, is good news for elderly members of the community. It shows that through a mix of young and old, the entire community can benefit, and create a place where the perfect conditions are met for a long, healthy and fulfilling life.
This aspect of Italian society is one to be cherished and preserved. The fact that Italians, even in cities without the best services, can expect to live long and happy lives, is at least in part down to the solidarity shown through intergenerational ties. It’s also a reason why the country is so eager for young professionals to come and move to its villages and towns and contribute to the story. What can seem like a challenge between generations in other countries is a strength in Italy, and long may it continue giving flavour to every region of the country.