When COVID hit in 2020, it interrupted our day-to-day social connections as we knew them. We were stressed, isolated and lonely—which made many realize just how much we need those connections to feel good. Social connections help us learn about new ideas, challenge our assumptions and give us a place of belonging. But what happens when people move away or leave our circles? It happens. And it’s why we need to tend and grow our friend relationships to make sure we always have a solid network to lean on. A great way to do that is through making connections with people outside our own age group.
Friendships and successful aging
Friendships have positive effects on our physical and mental health throughout life, but this is especially true as we age.1 Your friends are often as important as your family ties for mental well-being later in life.1 These bonds create a sense of connection, purpose and social and emotional support.1,2 They protect you from feeling lonely.1,2,3
Benefits of mixed-age friendships
Friendships are meaningful and can develop at any age. Many friendships begin from school, sports or other shared activities. Friendships in adulthood often come about through work, marriage, parenting and neighborhoods. These shared life experiences create relationships and feelings that are familiar and comfortable. They offer emotional and practical support as you go through the ups and downs of life and aging.
Friends provide companionship, compassion and help us feel valued.3 Age-mixed friendships can give you the space to be mentored by—and to mentor—people who’ve walked the road before or after you. They help reduce age-based judgments and build “intergenerational intelligence.” Opening yourself up to understanding different points of view and approaching differences in opinion with curiosity and interest can help build bridges rather than dividing lines.2
Intergenerational connections help foster a sense of community and belonging. They give older people a sense of purpose and help keep them active and engaged. For younger folks, these relationships can improve empathy and social skills.2
Struggling with friendships? Create your Teladoc Health account to connect with a licensed therapist.
Ideas to forge intergenerational bonds
It takes a little work to branch out your friend network. You can participate in activities and interests with a common purpose or objective. Things like sports, games, art, drama or garden clubs. Or, you can do paid or volunteer work for an organization that supports your beliefs and values. All of these create space for people to participate together. When you interact with and alongside other people, you can grow friendship bonds over time.
Storytelling is another way to bridge generational gaps. When a person shares the life experience that helped shape him or her, they’re also opening up lines of communication and understanding.
Younger friends can give older folks a chance to role model positive aging. It can even let you act in a young and carefree way that you might not have with your peers.
With so many benefits to young and old alike, there’s no reason for age to be a barrier to friendships. The small effort to grow your friend network can offer mental and physical health benefits that positively shape your life.
Online mental health resources
Have questions about making friends? We can help. At Teladoc Health, we’ve made mental healthcare more accessible so that you don’t have to wait weeks for an appointment. With a virtual appointment, you can speak with a mental health counselor right from your home, your office or wherever you’re most comfortable. We’re here to help you get started today!
Published August 22, 2023