The joy of intergenerational friendships
Since my daughter Bethan has joined me in running togetherfriends, it has got me thinking about intergenerational friendships. I know the mother - daughter thing isn't quite a friendship, but now that Bethan has grown up, it is becoming more so, as we can now (in normal times) enjoy a meal, a trip to the cinema, a walk or a glass of wine together. We have a good relationship, although I guess the discussions are slightly different to those you would have with a good friend.
My daughter is 27, I am 60 - so our outlooks on friendships and how we conduct our friendships may be very different.
This is a special time to talk about Intergenerational friendships. With lockdown and the greater awareness of loneliness and isolation, it is timely to talk about the benefits of this subject. In lockdown we have been motivated to chat to our neighbours, to volunteer with our local charities who are offering food deliveries and befriending services. And often these services are provided by younger people to the older, more vulnerable generation. Relationships may begin as a volunteer/supporting role, but many have turned into friendships along the way. Younger people have learned to enjoy the conversations with those they visit, hearing about their past lives and adventures, while older people who are isolated at home have relished the companionship, energy and enthusiasm of their younger visitors.
Helen: I have been thinking back to my own life and the type of intergenerational friendships I have enjoyed over the years. As a breed, we all tend to ‘keep to our own’, finding others like ourselves in personality and age, in the same stages of life.
However, when I have enjoyed a friendship with a younger or older person, this has brought greater breadth and understanding to my life. The main places I have made friends with people of a different age group have been in the work place, when volunteering, and in my local choir. In these sort of settings, the age of a person becomes largely irrelevant as you share an interest or passion. My special friendship at the moment is with a couple who were good friends with my mother. I visited them for the first time after her death at the age of 96, but our relationship has grown into a friendship which I relish. I love hearing their life stories and they in turn enjoy my visits; and I believe that my mother would be delighted that the relationship continues.
Bethan: From a young age I worked in the elderly care sector, so I feel incredibly lucky to have had the chance to reap the benefits of intergenerational friendship for many years. As a slightly awkward 15 year old at the time – just having hit puberty and throughout the following years as I changed and developed and found my feet in the world – these bonds I had created with a generation much older than I were invaluable.
When, at 18 years old, I experienced boyfriend troubles and the whole world felt very dramatic and difficult, some of the advice and guidance I gained from these friendships helped me to see more clearly, get me out of my teenage bubble and gave me a different perspective on my struggles at the time. In return, I would listen to their struggles and their stories, we would share common interests and chat for hours about things I wouldn’t have dreamed at that time of speaking to my friends about. I could tell our friendship brought both parties a lot of joy.
Fast forward a few years, and I now have friends of all ages, mainly through work but also through chance meetings and shared hobbies. A lot of my older friends are less reliant on technology and so being in their presence can give me a much needed break from screens in a very fast paced world, and they often seem more sure of themselves than I sometimes feel I am! They tell me this comes with age, but I’m very grateful to have them to ground me and make me realise my ‘problems’ now probably won’t be a problem still in a week, let alone in 20 years time! Not to mention some of my best nights out in my late twenties have been with an ex work friend 30 years my senior! We can laugh and dance all night!”
So what does intergenerational friendship bring? It brings better understanding and acceptance of other generations. It brings different experiences, knowledge and viewpoints. It brings wisdom and respect, all helping to build a more tolerant understanding of the world around us.
So let's keep the lockdown spirit going into the future and seek out more intergenerational friendships?