A week ago, one Facebook group I follow, which makes memes and jokes based on funny-looking medieval paintings, announced they made a board game. It’s called “Suffering Middle-Age” and the description is full of jokes as well. In particular, it says something like “... but it’s the Middle-Age and everyone will, eventually, suffer, and the luckiest of your citizens will live up to their 30s”.
Obviously, 30 is not we consider “lucky to live up to” nowadays. People in the age of 30 are considered to be young, and sometimes even quite young. But what are the limits of youth, and who are we speaking of, when we speak of youth?
United nation, the world biggest international organisation, considers youth to be limited by the age of 15-24 for statistical purposes. Although, because of the differences in approaches to defining youth by the member states and some other contradictions inside the UN policies, in some aspects, UN extends the upper limit of youth to 32 years. The same do most of the UN-related organizations such as WHO, UNICEF and many others. However, not all of them - for example, the African Youth Chapter of UN defines “youth” as people from 15 to 35 years old, which gives a significant difference.
If we look on Europe, we have to remember Erasmus+, the program, which brought us all here. As many of you know, Erasmus+ sees the top of youth at 30 years old, but the lower bottom of the group is quite a low one - 13 years old. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and development has a small difference in the definition of youth - for them, youth ends a bit earlier, at your 29th birthday.
Still, it’s pretty different from a country to country, even though the countries are members of the EU. For example, it’s different here in Germany - you can be young only if you’re from 18 to 27. This surprised me a lot because to receive financial support from the state, my hosting organisation needs to work with a certain amount of “young” people every year, even though older people are also eager to join our activities.
So, why do we even talk about it? Because like any other abstract concept, youth yet puts a certain label on those who belong to this group by their choice or by the decision of others. We expect young people to be ambitious, a bit irresponsible, thriving for something extravagant, unique and risky rather than to something simple, common but stable. But those who consider themselves as a part of this group can find it difficult in another country, even though those countries could both belong to the EU or be neighbours on a political map of the world.
Obviously, the limits of youth have moved a lot since even the last centuries. Our grandparents had their careers started and families made sometimes even before they’ve reached 20, while today people at the age of 20 can just start their higher educations. This obviously doesn’t make us lazy or stupid, rather it shows how much the world has changed. Isn’t that great that we have more time to be young, to experiment with what we want to become?
And the future can bring us even more to it. According to famous historian Yuval Noah Harari and his book “Homo Deus: A Brief History Of Tomorrow”, humankind can reach great progress in medicine which will allow us, human beings, to live up to 120-150 years. Now that doubles the life expectancy of those who were born in 2016, which means that people who live 150 years will have twice more time for their youth. The limits of youth are changing constantly - luckily, to the top. We’re really fortunate not to live in the “Suffering Middle-Age”, and we have to remember: youth - is rather a feeling than a strict age limit. And when our states or other official institutions are failing to move those limits appropriately, it’s our responsibility to remind them, that in the 21st century you can be a part of youth even after you’re 25. Or 30. Or 35.