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Friendship Knows No Age: Why Intergenerational Friendship Benefits Seniors (And Youngsters!)

Quick! Think of your first, best friend. More than likely, that person was around your same age…perhaps you met them in school? When you’re young, your friendship group is defined by a pretty narrow age range. But get out in the real world, and that changes…and opens up possibilities for fulfilling, rewarding friendships with individuals of any age.

These days, we’re more socially connected than ever, and there are seemingly endless ways to meet new people who share your interests and passions. So it’s not surprising that more and more seniors find themselves hanging out with the young’uns and forming deep friendships. In fact, intergenerational friendships can be incredibly beneficial to both you and the younger generation! Here’s why.

You learn from each other.

And not just the “they teach you technology and you teach them life lessons” type of thing. You have experiences with things they might not yet have had to experience, like finding a retirement home for their parents or having to switch up your diet once you hit a certain age. And they, for example, may be more in tune to what’s going on culturally or socially, especially if they have school-aged children or are in the workforce. (And, yes, they can probably help you figure out how to work your iPhone, too.)

You grow your social (and support) system.

As we age, we unfortunately can lose friends and family along the way. By building friendships with younger individuals, you create a larger social network to share, laugh, grieve and experience life with. And let’s be honest: younger people have a lot more energy and want to get out and do things a lot more than us old folks, and some of that enthusiasm and energy is bound to rub off.

You’ll be healthier (really!).

Kinda goes hand in hand with the whole “learning from each other” aspect. When you spend time with people of other generations, you’re more active (apparently you can burn 20 percent more calories by spending time with children), which makes you more mobile and less likely to experience issues like a fall. Socialization also sharpens your mind and keeps those neurons firing rapidly.

How can you start searching out these intergenerational friendships? Why, just the same way you’d approach making any other friendship. One of the best ways is to join a class or sign up for a club or activity that attracts all ages. Whether it’s joining the church choir, a book club or an underwater hockey league, you’ll be more likely to meet a broad range of ages who share a similar interest to you (always a good starting point for a friendship).

Most of all, stay open and be fearless. If you meet someone who you click with, why not ask if they’d be interested in a coffee date? You may find that the other person is just as interested in making friendships as you are.

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