Take a look at your friendship circle. What do you notice? Thanks to high school and uni, we’re often socialising with people in a similar age bracket to ourselves. But even science itself (fancy) is telling us that it pays to expand our social circles. And when we say expand, we mean by age range. This brings us to the point of this guide: intergenerational friendships!
An intergenerational friendship is one with a 15-year age gap or more, which isn’t actually that uncommon. You may already have an intergenerational relationship without even knowing it… like, if you have a good relationship with your grandparents, for example. There are so many reasons why fostering an intergenerational friendship can be beneficial for both parties.
Reach mentorship status
Having an older mentor to guide you through life can help shift your perspective on things that might seem like a big deal at the time. For example, you may miss out on a job, be unsuccessful in your rental bid, or deal with heartbreak for the first time. It can be difficult to get past these things in the heat of the moment. But, often, these things aren’t necessarily life-or-death scenarios. Having a mentor around to deliver you a fresh perspective and help you through these tricky life transitions can help alleviate what you’re feeling.
On the other hand, mentors can benefit from having mentees around, too. By helping others, they are making a difference, plus they know that their opinions are valued. This can only be a good thing for both parties, we reckon.
See things through a different lens
Ah, perspective. Love or hate it, but it’s often a welcome shock to the senses. Since your older friend has more years on you, they’ve likely been through their fair share of hardships (we mean, they’ve been around for longer … it’s just maths!) They can help you navigate your dilemmas and see things from a different angle.
On the flip side, as the younger friend, you can help your friend learn new skills and shift their perspective on all things pop culture, (you know, Harry Styles, Succession, whatever the heck is going on in reality TV land, etc.) … granting them a new understanding of what is important to younger people right now.
No comparisons, here
We humans are often ‘comparing’ our life stage and our achievements with the lives of others. It’s just in our nature. Open your Instagram and you’re likely to find engagement and pregnancy announcements, a SOLD sticker on someone’s new home or someone’s dream wedding pics. And while (most of the time), it’s easy to double heart the post and feel genuinely happy for your friend, this is often when the clock starts to tick … and we’re left feeling like we’re falling behind.
With intergenerational friendships, this feeling of competition doesn’t really exist. Firstly, you have the sage wisdom of your friend to give you perspective. Secondly, they’re at a completely different life stage to you, so any feelings of comparison tend to dissipate. The truth is that we are all on our own clock, and that set timelines don’t really exist. (But, don’t feel bad about feeling bad … ‘cause trust us, we’ve all been there.)
Better for the brain
As we age, our social circles tend to dwindle. This can be due to life changes, or growing apart, but sadly, as one gets older, they experience the deaths of people from their own age group. Making younger friends – who may be generations below us – can be both refreshing and rewarding, with some studies showing that it can even increase brain function, especially if you’re suddenly doing all kinds of new activities you’ve never done before. Pretty cool, right?!
So, we know that fostering an intergenerational friendship can increase brain power, purpose and happiness, but it’s not always easy to put yourself out there and make new friends – at any stage of life. A good tip is to put yourself out there and join a club or a group that interests you. Sure, you may only make friends your own age, but it’s a good opportunity to meet some new people. And who knows?! Your next intergenerational friendship could be just around the corner.
Loved this blog? You may be interested in our guide to Senior Activities for Seniors or Staying Social As You Age: Making New Friends in a Retirement Village, next.