This is not about being squeezed between taking care of your elderly parents and helping your millennial children. That is a topic for another day. Rather I want to explore the concept of time banks and volunteering services between younger and older residents. The Village to Village network is now experiencing problems at some locations because of the advanced age of their residents: http://changingaging.org/blog/will-villages-age-members/ . The trend towards fewer younger members shows the limitations of a closed neighborhood system.
Even some of the new co-housing developments that want to be more specifically senior friendly are concerned about this dis-balance of younger and older worker bees. Multi generational is a term that you could apply to the composition of who lives in your regular neighborhood. The ‘intentional community’ concept of co-housing can be fabricated. What happens when the do for others now so you receive services later, does not quite materialize. If you volunteer your time and help transport others, perform handy person chores, clean up yards etc, will there be younger folks to take care of you when your time to not do so much comes around?
There are already Time Banks in many American cities, just go to timebank.com. A new program in California is called LinkAges. It is partly directed at those who do not have steady employment but can use their skills in exchange for other things that they need. They do emphasize that all generations have something to offer and that is admirable. The idea of bartering your time babysitting for example for other services goes way back. How that works out in reality can be very daunting in the formal record keeping and the feeling of getting your fair dividend back out.
Instead of the emphasis on the reciprocal nature of a time bank, what about just pay it forward. That is an old concept as well. Just do for others. Looking for some inspiration here that does not involve direct reciprocity. I found a great anonymous quote: “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in an election once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”
With the swell in the number of citizens over the age of 65 rolling forward (cue the wave/ tsunami metaphor!) we have to invent something else in this “sharing economy” And I do not mean an app for that. Maybe I am talking more about a sense of duty mixed with the good faith that if there is a high sense of volunteerism it will work out for everyone. That may seem sadly out of place in our self centered society. I hope we are not beyond that. As Mohamed Ali, once the master of balance, defined volunteering: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”