6 Profound Benefits Of Seeking Out Intergenerational Friendships

There's so much to learn when we're open to one another.

friends having dinner party outside Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

Like the people involved, friendships tend to be dynamic and reflect situations. 

Close connections can start, deepen and dissolve as participants’ needs, interests and lives shift. 

Yet, longevity and consistency are often craved as stable anchors in today’s complex unpredictable lives. 

Let's explore how to start and nurture friendships across generations to enrich and deepen your choices, experiences and meaning in life.


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Time is precious — so are friendships

In this tech-connected and driven world, the slower evolution of intergenerational friendships may seem old-fashioned. 

But it’s a process within your grasp that offers the stability of at least six profound choices during continuing political, social and economic shifts, exacerbated by rapid change.  


Among your powers is making authentic choices about how to use your precious, nonrenewable time. Instead of settling into a reactive mode, you can explore and pursue what you want in genuine personal and work intergenerational relationships.     

So, avoid assessing your own success and possibly value based on a number of friends from social media, via texting and other rapid-fire connections. 

Alternatively, try attending to relatively slower-moving, evolving options. They can include conversations in-person and by phone as well as on Zoom and substantive email over time. 

Such opportunities for interaction beyond reactive and other truncated communication can stimulate depth and trust for longer-standing friendships — or at least open doors to promising worthwhile relationships.


Imagine you’re planting your relationship garden. You’d want firm, healthy rooting leading to mutually nutritious results for continuous harvesting. 

Effective fertilization would use preferred and varied intergenerational communication processes suited to situations. 

As with any garden, your investment will take some time and attention. The return will be immense.

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Here are six benefits possible in intergenerational friendships

1. Natural, authentic flow of connecting and communicating

The social barriers between generational peers don't interfere with communication. There's no competition. It's a free, easy connection without stress.


2. Balance of give and take, of effort and caring

Each person in the relationship has something equally important to offer: the energy of youth, the wisdom of age.

3. Enjoyment and stimulation from differences and pursuing shared curiosities

They are different enough that each person can gain insight into another way of thinking, a way shaped by their respective generations.

4. Kindness, consideration and empathy

With respect and curiosity come kindness and empathy. Each person strives to be the best version of themselves. Not to impress the other, but to show respect for the other's time and point of view.

5. Complementary senses of humor and playfulness

In many cases, a young person might never have heard the jokes that were funny a generation ago. Similarly, an older adult might not have been exposed to a brand of humor that didn't exist when they were young. Laughing together at something new is a great way to bond.


6. Honesty, openness and mutual trust as well as respect

Because there is no competition or suspicion of motives, each person in an intergenerational friendship can be who they are. They can present honest thoughts and feelings without fear of retribution or judgment. 

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Factors that thwart close relationships 

Realistically speaking, these six characteristics do not flow automatically. In fact, they may be even rarer these days given the fewer close relationships Americans have.  

Tendencies to move locations more often, long working hours, and marrying later or not at all have contributed to loneliness. 


Social isolation may paradoxically be an aspect of time devoted to social media. 

That seldom contains immediate levels of intimacy and depth without some follow-up and commitment over time.  

Or perhaps you have friends primarily from one source such as work, community or school. 

Other categories are familial, political, local/neighborhood, collaborative and professional groups. These comfortable, often habitual relationships can also be characterized by particular ages, levels of education, previous experiences or religions.

If this is similar to your situation, how much time is left for seeking intergenerational connections?

Considering these tendencies, all the more reason to take some manageable steps to modify your present situation. 


Is it time to experiment and expand your range of possibilities for friendships of promise and richer value for your quality of life?

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A lifetime of intergenerational friendships 

As an only child of older parents, I felt comfortable with adults. Based on my experience from continuous learning, detours and setbacks, work connections and following my curiosity, I now enjoy a range of interesting, engaging, healthy friendships. 

They have different backgrounds and are mostly decades younger. We cross-fertilize with varied styles, preferences, insights and information.  


Over time, I have continued having fun learning about and creating art. 

With a friend, about 20 years younger, we escaped some pandemic boredom and constraints by going to museum exhibits online and discussing the art. After exhausting those possibilities with weekly online excursions and hourly conversations over two years, Shari suggested we do mashups.

Each of us chooses three comparable or contrasting paintings, one batch a week. Our experiment extends beyond the art, of course, since our open friendship provides continuing opportunities to explore lots of topics and concerns.

An even younger new friend, Sireen, is studying to be an art therapist and practicing with me. 


I have been creating collages, my first efforts in my own form of art. Already, I received a few positive comments on my original combinations that have gone beyond copying images and playing with color. 

I had made some progress with that after a course with Mona Brookes on learning to draw at our children’s museum; it loosened me up to finally write my dissertation on how people discover their capacity for courage. 

As appreciation and for fun, I offer Sireen a range of information related to their interests as well as feedback and ideas connected to their profession.


My only close friend near my age lives abroad. Over decades, Andrew and I have sustained lively exchanges and conversations about our previous profession, articles and photography, a range of information and ideas. 

Distance has not dimmed our communication, now even greater with several emails daily.  

RELATED: Why No Relationship Compares To Your Long-Lasting Friendships

Change is constant — embrace it

The continuous change in life, chosen or not, is more likely now than ever. Grounding yourself with trusted, stimulating people who are different from yourself can certainly include the addition of fruitful friendships with a variety of older and younger people. 


The gardens you nurture will bring opportunities for new learning, vistas and experiences along with opportunities to stretch skills, travel into the intriguing unknown and contribute in new ways. 

Regardless of how you and others label yourself and ease you feel in new situations, here are some suggestions for connecting with older and younger individuals. Adjust them to what would work well for you and add your own ideas.

  • Engage in learning something of true interest to you. Connect with your fellow learners online, in person, through projects and by phone.
  • Identify an issue, problem or concern that means something to you; seek out and start conversations with anyone who shares your interests online and through established groups that share your values. Ask current connections for referrals related to your interests.
  • Choose a topic that ignites your energy enough to write articles in community sources and letters to the editor. Your passion will also create conversational bridges with current and future friends.
  • Identify a group sport you want to learn or practice that attracts a range of ages.
  • Join a community-based group for book reading, exploring spiritual concerns, or contributing to improving a local concern that’s important to you.

When you stick with your effective choices, you will connect with new friends across generations for mutual benefit. Your capacity to sustain your connections will provide sustenance over time.

RELATED: 10 Types Of Friends You Need In Your Life


Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. Obtain the bonus first chapter of her seventh book,  Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future