The Foundation for the Dialogue of Generations was founded in 1999. We are very proud that the objective to improve the intergenerational relations and to create a positive image of age stated at that time, has proven to be visionary. Today, our topics are heading the social and media agenda, without ever forgetting to realize that there is, however, still a long way to go. There is no doubt that the understanding of generation relations will remain an burning issue of social change and the centre of our efforts for an indefinite period of time.
During the last couple of years, the pragmatic activities of the foundation were primarily focused on three subject areas: Encouragement of a scientific awareness for the structures of the generational dialogue; transformation of the image of age from `prejudice to pride´ and eventually, the taking over of patronage for trendsetting projects, which help to improve the relationship between the different age groups.
One prominent project was the encouragement and cooperation with the Institute for the Dialogue of Generations at the university of Györ in Hungary, planned to continue for five years. Personal contacts and encounters with representatives of this European university in the border triangle quickly resulted in the willingness to establish intergenerational course offerings. We decided in favour of the project with the Hungarian colleagues, due to the fact that the willingness to tackle this issue in 1999 was really exceptional as well as placing an early focus on the European dimension of the demographic change.
In nine semesters, until the year 2004, the theoretical and the practical aspects of the generational dialogue were explored with students of this university and published in three Hungarian and two German documentations. The seminars were, depending on the fluency in the respective language, held in Hungarian, German and English and were accepted with great enthusiasm. Apart from teaching generation-sociological basic knowledge, the courses focused on an actual survey of the relations between the different age groups. Also, an overview of how the images of age were presented in the media, politics, families and in literature, was compiled. Altogether, we have experienced a great expert enrichment and improved the knowledge about the demographic change.
Our second main issue was focused on the further establishment of a positive and modern awareness of age. This idea followed the founding motivation of this foundation and found its living role model in the long-time Honorary President Sir Peter Ustinov. Thanks to the close cooperation of the initiator of the foundation, Thomas Druyen, with this unique cosmopolitan, it became very clear that there are personalities who are valued and admired by all generations because of their wisdom, their humour and their character, irrespective of their age. This shining example of a successful acceptance between a wide variety of generations became the future model of a new image of age, that offered and still offers orientation for the awareness of the growing number of mature citizens in the course of the demographic development
Against this background, the foundation helped Sir Peter to establish his influental prejudice research at the universities of Vienna and Budapest and has in turn explored the aspect of prejudices against age. In conversations, discussions and events we have pointed out the untenable contradictions between increasing age population and decreasing job offers, between historically significant prolongation of life and the ignorance of mature competencies as well as between the obsession with youth and a decrease in birth-rates. We cooperated with the Federal Association of German Organisations for Seniors and many other related institutions in order to raise the awareness, that only the respect for and integration of age will form the basis for the responsibility and acceptance of the personal future development.
The third component of our activity was the sponsorship and patronage for projects, which enhance the sense of generations and present this in an exemplary manner. Such as, for example, the “FlintCenter” in Bad Tölz / Bavaria, an economy- and technology centre with the Forum of Generations at its core. There, on about 5.600 sqm, gerontological research and development, trade and services as well as training and education were combined in a trend-setting manner. Our patronage manifested itself mostly in the participation in different generation conventions, in which the new image of age, the aging staffs/employers as well as markets and brands in the generational change were explored in detail.
This cooperation and the authentic experience of an outstanding integration capability between federal government, district authorities, mayor, scientific institutions, innovative companies and a tight network of further cooperation partners has proven, that the successful dialogue of generations is neither an illusion nor a paper tiger, but the result of courageous and progressive action. It also became clear, that modern, intergenerational activities that could not fall back on comparable historical models, are dependant on decisive and stable personalities of all ages. In this respect, in the course of this project and many others, we were shown quite plainly that the future quality of the generation relations are not a socio-political and social illusion, but a pragmatic basis of our survival.
Apart from the implementation of this generational network, the foundation has, for example, also taken over the patronage for the Federal Garden Show in Munich. We participated in a number of events, in order to show the expected four million visitors the scope and the chance of the generational dialogue. Our board members and members of the board of trustees were present at the different occasions and the highlight, from our point of view, was a great event with enormous publicity, in which we presented a manifesto for a better co-existence of the generations. Altogether, following Theodor Fontane, we want to contribute to loving the old and living the new.
After six years of honorary activity of the board of trustees, the board and the management and several successful projects, it is necessary to self-critically take stock. In contrast to the founding year 1999, the public knowledge regarding demographic change has improved sustainably. Distinct records of this were the “Methusalem Komplott” [“Methusalem Conspiracy”] by Frank Schirrmacher as a medial long-time highlight and “Olymp des Lebens” [“Life's Olympus. A New Image of Age”] by Thomas Druyen, as one of the few monuments of a positive appraisal of age. But the actual chances of a positive relationship between the generations seemed in no way common knowledge.
Therefore the question arose how we could identify the resources, experiences and abilities of all age-groups in our societies and make use of them together? How could we achieve to claim the treasures of knowledge and the creative power of wealth to prepare the path for cultural rethinking? Obviously, there was no vision how we could implement the new constellation of the generations for the benefit of everyone. We made this challenge the extended purpose of the foundation in 2005. As a theoretical basis we used the philosophy of the Culture of Wealth, developed by our founder Thomas Druyen. In short, this Culture of Wealth intended the encouragement and maintenance of material and immaterial values, of relations and networks for the protection of the individual, family and social future concept.
The transfer of wealth in its multifaceted meaning, such as property, freedom, experience, ability and willingness is at the centre of a future dialogue of generations. The fact that we are living longer and longer and that the number of elderly people is continuing to grow, is a great and historically unique achievement. The decreasing birth-rate within the native population and the increase of multicultural immigration is, however, our actual challenge that we need to face intelligently and creatively. The responsibility of the older generation for this new youth calls for a modification of narrow and anxious attitudes towards life. In this respect, wealth needs to be implemented in an effective manner, in order to reach a new architecture of our living conditions.
In this revision of our social structure, generosity, public interest, philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and ethics play an outstanding role. Especially the wealthy clientele has an important creative function. Unfortunately, with the practice of doing good deeds, professional and entrepreneurial facts are often left unconsidered. That is why it seemed absolutely necessary for us to scientifically explore the entire realm of private aid and donations and also the mentality and attitude of the donators. We as a foundation have committed ourselves to this form of largely unexplored Wealth Research. If we succeed to reach new projects and networks that encourage the co-existence of the generations by revealing innovative research findings, we have achieved a great deal. The young need all our wealth in order to be able to create a fair and just future.
We started with the implementation of this task in 2006. The foundation funded the first Forum for Wealth Research at the Westphalian Wilhelm University in Münster. At the centre of its functions is the project “Wealth in Germany”, the first wide-scale survey of attitudes towards philanthropic involvement. In 2007, there was already a convention in order to adjust the social- and cultural scientific perspectives of Wealth Research with representatives of other disciplines such as national economy, economic science, psychology, behavioural economics, etc. A further institute at the University of Potsdam is currently being set up. It is our aim for the next couple of years, to establish further institutions for Wealth Research in large European universities.
This network for the Culture of Wealth should form a nucleus for the building of bridges between wealthy families, exemplary personalities and outstanding young talents, whose potential must be supported. With these activities we want to create a scientific and suggestive basis for the dialogue of generations, in order to systematically increase the preparedness to act ethically.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Druyen, 2008