The Beauty of Intergenerational Friendships

The Beauty of Intergenerational Friendships

Now that I’m on the periphery of AARP age and am receiving their magazine, I’m treated to articles like this one about intergenerational friendships. An AARP survey found nearly four in ten adults (37 percent) have a close friend who is at least 15 years older or younger than they are. Intergenerational friendships are more common among older generations — Gen X (41%) and boomers (39%) — than millennials (32%). Generation Z—today’s teens—are not reflected in the survey. So why a blog post about intergenerational friendships from Merion Mercy Academy? Because I highly recommend them!

Let me tell you a story from my own teenage years. I was working at my first job in a restaurant. Frequently assigned the role of hostess, I got to know the familiar faces, including one older couple I started to call Mr. and Mrs. Monday (because that was the day they always came to the restaurant). As the months passed, I got to know this lovely couple—the Flemings—and when the time came for me to leave the job, we shared contact information (pre-email and social media). What followed were a series of letters between us that continued for many years. In fact, the Flemings attended my bridal shower and wedding and sent me and my husband an anniversary card each year. Christmas cards were always filled with updates. When Mr. Fleming passed, I attended his funeral and shared the story about our friendship. It is one I’ll never forget. 

While few friendships can compare to those formed with peers in a community like Merion Mercy Academy, intergenerational friendships have a charm of their own. These relationships offer a bridge between the past, present, and future, allowing each generation to learn from the other's experiences and perspectives. They can bring joy, inspiration, and a renewed sense of wonder into both parties' lives, breaking down barriers and forging bonds that go beyond age. Among the benefits:

Wisdom and Perspective

One of the most significant advantages of intergenerational friendships is the exchange of wisdom and perspective. Older friends have a wealth of life experiences to share, providing invaluable insights and guidance to younger companions. In turn, younger friends can introduce fresh ideas and a contemporary outlook on life, keeping the older generation connected to the world's evolving trends and thoughts.

Mutual Learning and Growth

Intergenerational friendships create an atmosphere of continuous learning and personal growth. The exchange of knowledge and experiences allows both parties to broaden their horizons, challenging preconceived notions, and encouraging empathy. As each friend learns from the other, their perspectives become more nuanced, fostering open-mindedness and a deeper understanding of the world.

Emotional Support and Companionship

Regardless of age, we all experience moments of joy and hardship. Intergenerational friendships offer a unique support system, providing emotional comfort and companionship during challenging times. Sharing these ups and downs fosters a sense of belonging and strengthens the friendship bonds, creating lasting memories that transcend the passage of time.

Wondering how to form these special friendships? 

  • Embrace Diversity: Be open to meeting people from different age groups. Attend community events or volunteer activities where you're likely to encounter individuals of varying ages and backgrounds. Church is a great place to start!

  • Listen and Learn: Actively listen to the stories and experiences shared by potential friends from different generations. Show genuine interest in their lives, and be receptive to the insights they offer.
  • Find Common Interests: Seek out shared hobbies, interests, or causes that can bring people of different ages together. Join clubs or groups centered around activities you enjoy to meet like-minded individuals from various generations.
  • Demonstrate Respect and Empathy: Treat each person with respect, regardless of their age. Be mindful of generational differences and approach conversations with empathy and an open heart.

Have your own intergenerational friendship story? Please share it in the comments!