Opinion: Intergenerational Friendships are Essential


Media by Liza Cooper

When I talk to my grandma, pictured above with my grandpa, my brother and I, I feel like she understands my problems even though they are modern. This goes to show that intergenerational friendships can provide valuable insight and advice, even when it seems like two people have nothing in common.

Sometimes, I think my grandma is the person who understands me the most.

This shouldn’t make sense. She’s 81, I’m her opposite — 18. She was born in a time when Frank Sinatra was at the height of his career and poodle skirts were just about to skyrocket in popularity. When the guns of WWII were still firing and Winston Churchill was still alive.

But as a Gen Z, Taylor Swift, 2004 social media baby, I oddly feel like she understands me on a level that no one else does. I cherish her valuable insight, even on problems that are inherently modern.

And she needs me too — I help her figure out how to use her phone and shop for Christmas gifts.

This exchange of ideas, values and advice proves why intergenerational friendships are crucial.

As we go about our everyday lives, however, we experience a phenomenon called age segregation. This term refers to the separation of Americans into groups based on age. Think about it — in school, students are separated by grade and nursing homes are almost always filled with people over the age of 70.

This exchange of ideas, values and advice proves why intergenerational friendships are crucial.

— Liza Cooper

While age segregation makes sense, as we tend to stick with others who are similar to us, it is necessary to step outside one’s demographic to gain valuable perspective.

The rich experiences people like my grandma have had have equipped them with essential life skills. Even though I feel like I know everything at 18 years old, the older generation helps me realize this is certainly not the case. I am still young and figuring things out and that’s okay. Intergenerational friendships provide the advice of someone who has “been there, done that,” which definitely helps me figure things out a lot more.

On the other hand, young people have an advantageous impact on the older generation as well. The presence of young adults and children in the life of an older person can greatly decrease the feeling of loneliness that generally accompanies getting older.

Interactions between generations can also improve or maintain the cognitive functions of people in older generations, according to a study by the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe.

So the next time an older relative has a long story to tell or the elderly woman who works at your favorite restaurant strikes up a conversation with you, stop and be an active participant. It is truly a gift to have people in this world who willingly use their wisdom to help the younger generation.