The Power of Intergenerational Friendships
Author Elizabeth Bennett discusses how we tend to form friendships with people of our own age as we go through our education and working lives. That’s fine and normal but forming friendships with people who are older or younger, so of a different generation, has many benefits that enrich our lives. Yet, research showed that only a third of Americans had a close friend who is at least 15 years older or younger than they are.
In my last two blogs, I focused on how the collapse of intergenerational living, the norm for most of human evolution, has increased loneliness. In large part this is because the opportunity to connect with people from different generations, with all the benefits that brings, has greatly reduced.
Friendships across ages have many benefits for society
They build community and empathy, help break down generational stereotypes and provide opportunities to gain a fresh perspective and grow. Friends of different ages can help you see the bigger picture and stop you comparing yourself to or competing with your age-peers which benefits your mental health. Such friendships offer the possibility of richer and more interesting conversations. People of varying ages have different life perspectives and experiences which can give rise to new ways of thinking and doing. We all evolve as people as we travel through life and the friends you have had since youth may not fully understand the more evolved you.
There are many benefits to having older friends
They can help you gain perspective to help cope with difficult life events such as redundancy or a break-up. You can learn how they survived and thrived after difficult life events. They often have a different outlook to those of a similar age to you. Older people tend to be more focused on happiness which can be refreshing for younger people more focused on life goals such as career advancement, buying property or starting a family.
The benefits of having younger friends
Sharing life experiences and perspective can be extremely rewarding. Only having older friends can be limiting as your cohort can reduce over time due to loss. It can be really rewarding and invigorating and lead to a change of routine and trying something different which studies suggest can increase brain function.
In modern Western society, the opportunities for different generations to mix can be very limited despite these benefits. However, BuddyHub specifically focuses on building intergenerational bonds. We see a real desire for these relationships as everybody benefits from the friendships created.