The automobile has left the elderly generation behind, said the 80-year-old former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey on Wednesday.
Old patterns of family life were "hollowed out" as communities became scattered by improved modes of transport and new career patterns, he said according to the Telegraph. Carey spoke with nostalgia at a conference on ageing Britain about his working-class upbringing that "revolved around the older generation".
He said respect for older people had declined because people were no longer taught the 10 Commandments.
Carey, a controversial proponent of assisted suicide, said the fifth commandment – "honour your father and mother" – once meant communities believed in "primacy of the elderly".
He told the conference in Westminster hosted by think-tank the International Longevity Centre:
"I remember growing up as a boy in the East End of London, in a cockney family, the close-knit communities that marked working class culture. There was a remarkable symbiosis between the different ages. Life revolved around the older generation with my mother's mother as the matriarch at the centre of the family.
"Now perhaps there still exists that pattern of family life in some parts of northern England and maybe in some of the newer communities, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, that are springing up around us. But in the main strong community life has been hollowed out by the car, by younger people seeking work elsewhere, by job opportunities and so on. Family cohesiveness has been destroyed as a result.
"Of course I don't want to sentimentalise or romanticise a long-ago age when communities were more stable."
He said there were now two contradictoryapproaches towards the elderly: "On the one hand ageing is seen as a loss, a decline from the best of life a major demographic problem, a drain on the economy to the other view that it is seen as a time of maturity and wisdom, a release from the stress of working life, self-fulfilment, serenity and [a time] to develop and pass on knowledge to another generation," he said.
"In Christian and Jewish thinking the primacy of the elderly stems from the Fifth Commandment, honour thy father and thy mother, and in the teaching of Jesus love thy neighbour as thyself."