I travel in circles most people my age don’t. I’m a nontraditional adult student in college, a runner who takes part in everything from 5Ks to marathons and a sci-fi writer who makes appearances at two or three sci-fi conventions a year. Because of these activities, I find myself interacting quite a bit with people who are much younger than my 50-something self. Along the way, I’ve forged friendships with a few Millennials and have reaped several benefits from expanding my circle.
Here are three reasons I recommend forming friendships that cross generational lines:
1. You Have Wisdom to Share
“It’s always pleasurable to be able to help someone,” says Greg Nicoll, who turns 59 this year and works in tech support at a software company.
Just like having friends with a variety of cultural backgrounds enriches you, the same can be said for having friends from different generations.
Most of Nicoll’s co-workers are younger than him by a fair stretch, and he enjoys being able to offer perspective that helps them manage their lives. “They don’t have the benefit of a range of life experiences to help them cope with the problems they have to deal with, whether at work or in their relationships,” he says.
For my part, I’ve been able to help a twentysomething actress navigate her way out of an emotionally abusive relationship. And I let my fellow college students in on a big secret: A ‘C’ in one class does not ruin your life.
2. Younger Friends Have a Perspective to Share
Just like having friends with a variety of cultural backgrounds enriches you, the same can be said for having buddies from different generations. Friends your own age can probably relate to you more closely, but they also take a lot for granted because you’re on familiar ground with them. Younger friends ask a lot of questions, which can stir up memories and get you thinking about things in a new way.
You may also find yourself being invited to social occasions with your younger friends, which can expose you to new music, dances, foods, fashion and more. It will also probably serve to wipe away any stereotypes you have about Millennials.
Nicoll enjoys learning how Millennials see things differently than he does, often because their exposure to technology is so vastly different from his. “One co-worker once asked me why we ‘dial’ a phone number, so I had to explain to him how our old dial phones used to work,” he says.
3. Friendships Matter
Studies have indicated that, as we get older, having good relationships with friends is actually more important to our psychological well-being than having good relationships with family members. This may be because having friends is regarded as something we’ve achieved, while family is something we’re born with (or stuck with, depending on the family member).
Making new friends ensures you are staying socially connected and protecting yourself from the loneliness and isolation that affects many older adults, too.
A 2013 article on Next Avenue pointed out the value of having older friends, as well. In my own experience, this is true. Having older friends provided me with much-needed insights into the mysteries of life that I might never have learned, and sometimes helped me deal with issues the friends closer to my age couldn’t help me figure out. It goes both ways.