Find Community

The Positive Impact of Intergenerational Friendships for Seniors

Having intergenerational friendships helps seniors see different perspectives, gives them a sense of purpose and more.

Variety is the spice of life, and one element of life illustrates this point particularly well: friendship.
A close look at your circle of friends is likely to reveal many differences. Some share your personal interests, while others share a stage of life. You may have colleagues who became friends, and parents who cheered alongside you when your kids took the field.

If you’re like some people, you may also have some intergenerational friendships. These unexpected connections with someone a generation (or more) removed may seem an unlikely match, but in fact intergenerational relationships can be quite mutually rewarding. That belief is the basis for the intergenerational programming many of today’s senior living communities offer.

What makes intergenerational friendships so valuable?

Seniors are particularly susceptible to feelings of loneliness. Feeling lonely isn’t just sadness; it’s a state of mind that can produce a slate of mental and physical health risks. Developing personal relationships of all kinds can help reduce a sense of loneliness and promote stronger connectivity, but intergenerational friendships provide unique advantages.

Relating with young people can bring numerous rewards. A friend from a younger generation can help you learn new skills, such as navigating unfamiliar technology. You may also find their youthful energy and exuberance is contagious, motivating you to become more active. Having positive interactions to anticipate can also boost your mood and morale.

What’s more, spending quality time with younger individuals is an opportunity to gather insight that helps you understand how a new generation perceives and interacts with the world you share. After all, there are sure to be some differences!

Conversely, you may experience a sense of pride and purpose when you serve as a mentor to a  young person who is equally curious about the wisdom and perspective older adults bring to the community. As the older party of an intergenerational relationship, your views on historical events, traditions, and society overall can be quite illuminating for a young person open to exploring their worldview.You may also be able to share your own life experiences, skills and knowledge to advance a young person’s own abilities.

What is intergenerational programming?

For some seniors, intergenerational opportunities are built into their family. Children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, and other relatives offer the chance to interact with other generations, both older and younger. For those who have no living family or whose families are scattered and unable to visit often, striking up an intergenerational friendship can be a bit more challenging.

That’s where senior living communities are filling a gap. The vast majority of retirement communities offer special programming designed to meet the interests and needs of their residents. Programs encourage hobbies, foster socialization, engage residents with the community, and more.

Some communities are quite intentional about creating opportunities for their residents to connect with young people. These intergenerational programs nurture interaction between individuals from different generations for mutual benefit. Examples include partnerships with local school groups for activities such as arts and crafts, music, dancing, story time and playing games, among others. More progressive examples include communities where child care and senior care are delivered from a single location.

Explore Opportunities to Forge New Friendships

For many seniors, the potential rewards of intergenerational friendships factor into their decision about where to settle in retirement. If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, be sure to inquire about intergenerational programming as you explore senior living communities you might enjoy calling home. You’re also welcome to get in touch with us with your questions; we’re always willing to lend a helping hand on your journey toward the rewarding retirement lifestyle you deserve.

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.