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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Te Whariki: Intergenerational Survival Strategies

Dr Margaret Nicholls.

Within New Zealand, as in many other countries, there has been a recognition that traditional societal structures no longer appear to meet the needs of the many people who identify a lack of cohesion between groups and concern that there is a tendency for society to be fragmented. This leads to feelings of isolation, exclusion and powerlessness by particular groups. One of these groups are the elderly who are becoming vocal about their perceived position of marginalisation and lack of opportunities for interactions with other age groups, in particular, the young.
Intergenerational connections are seen as crucial to maintain connections between different, and often competing, age groups within society. Many social services, policies and structures are now being reviewed with this in mind.
The analogy of the flax plant is one that is used in New Zealand to represent the extended family unit as the basic structure for intergenerational development.
This paper considers the analogy of the flax plant (te Harakeke) as one that can be used as a framework to develop relationships between the young and old that enhance the lives of both. As a consequence of intergenerational connectedness it is hoped that the separation, exclusion, fragmentation and rejection that some groups feel may be reduced or possibly eliminated from society.
While the family is identified as a critical factor in societal cohesion intergenerational connections can also extend to non-familial situations. Intergenerational programmes are a growing concept for building relationships between young and old. While there is no one curriculum that underpins all the programmes, this paper suggests that the five aspects of wellbeing, exploration, belonging, contribution and communication can form the basis of an intergenerational curriculum as they do the early childhood education curriculum in New Zealand; Te Whariki.


Dr Margaret Nicholls
Chairperson, Department of Professional Studies, School of Education
Department of Professional Studies in Education

  • Intergenerational programmes and relationships
  • Early childhood education
  • Ageing
  • Family

(30 min Conference Paper, English)