The value of youth

Yesterday’s post possibly had us sounding as if we consider youth to be an enemy, a view that we deny, strenuously if necessary.

What brought age to mind, though, was a bit of early-21st-century life that might deserve closer scrutiny, namely the experience of filling in a questionnaire. There seem to be more of these about than ever. Audit was indeed a successful innovation, and is now entrenched here in Finland too. (Tempting to blame the EU, since we just spotted this, The State of Helsinki Region 2009 – European Comparisons, on the Helsinki City website).

But the audit in question was actually just a customer feed-back form from the Helsinki Festival. We participated out of curiosity and in the hope of winning freebies to next year’s event. The question that drew our attention was one that asked for words to best describe the festival. The first one offered was “youthful”. It was laid out so as to imply that a tick in the box “strongly agree” would be most welcome to the organisers.

Now in fact we’re all for youthfulness and the kind of open-mindedness often associated with youth, but given that the population is ageing here too  it’s at least worth asking why youthfulness should still be so highly prized. It’s also fair to say that novelty, newness, innovation all things shiny and un-tarnished have been appreciating in cultural value terms (pardon the expression) for a very long time, in ways that arguably obscure more mature preferences and capabilities. And in cities all around the world it’s all too obvious that the idealisation of youth has actually got a little bit out of hand along with the hype about creativity, as Jamie Peck argued so delightfully a couple of years ago. After all, the “creative class” so cossetted by urban policy is, say aged 19-35, and so it’s come to seem that many people, regardless of personal preferences or quirks of body shape, try to fit the mould expected of this age group. This includes everything from sartorial and consumer preferences to (ugh) cosmetic surgery.

Which is worse then, that individuals ill-shaped to fit that mould or cities, previously welcoming to so many moulds, should have become homogenised so?

Here, borrowed from  is the “pyramid” of Finland’s population structure in 1917, next to the 2006 one, nicknamed “burial urn” by the ever-humorous statisticians (2006).

Vaesto

A 2007 report for the City (Kunta- ja palvelurakenneuudistus – Pääkaupunkiseudun väestöanalyysi awaits further examination but yields at least this relevant piece of information:

Eläkeikäisten määrä alkaa kasvaa, kun suuret ikäluokat tulevat eläkeikään. Yli 65-vuotiaiden määrän kasvu lähes kolminkertaistuu seudulla nykyisestä vuosina 2006-2014

The population of pensionable age will grow as the “baby boomers” reach pension age. The number of over-65s will be almost triple the present over 2006-2014.

Here are some brute figures on who’s known to be here and what they speak.

Population (1.1.2009) 576 632
Women 53,1 %
Men 46,9 %
Finnish speakers 84,3 %
Swedish speakers 6,1 %
Other speakers 9,6 %
Foreign nationals 6,7 %

And to sign off, a gratuitous image of a typical Helsinki phenomenonCyclist on the phone. Age unspecified.

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