In France, high school students are marching alongside elders to protest changes in policies around retirement age. Can you imagine such a thing happening in the U.S.? We have heard that current young people "lack confidence" in the future of Social Security, but I can tell you that when I moderated a community conversation about Social Security privitization a few years ago (when Bush Jr. was still in office), there were very few people in the audience who looked to be members of generations other than the Boomers and current elders.
The history of major social movements in the U.S. has shown us that people have to be self-interested in some significant way in order to feel compelled to put their energy and time -- their very lives, perhaps -- toward a larger effort of protest and change. One of the challenges with issues around aging and later life is that many humans in the Western world don't exactly dig confronting what it might mean to be a future older person (which is why I am so committed to doing intentional aging and cross-gen radical inquiry).
Though a couple of my more radical gerontologist colleagues from the U.K. think it is impossible, I still maintain that if we can figure out how to have a cross-generational social movement in the U.S., focused narrowly enough on something we all care about, we could instigate significant, lasting social change.
What matters to you? What are your deepest hopes and concerns? Imagine that on a beautiful autumn Saturday in Portland, Oregon you and your grandchild and your Gen-X friend from school and your neighbor from Pakistan are facing bravely a line of police who are trying to break up your protest march. What are you protesting?