Friendships are one of the most wholesome and valuable relationships people can have. It makes sense that people default to making friends who fall within their age range. Most people make friends in school and carry them through life. Primary school, high school and even university all tend to group people on the basis of age making it difficult to make friends outside your age group. The culture also creates arbitrary boundaries between relationships with people who are older than you in the name of respect and whatnot. There are however benefits to having inter-generational friendships with 20, 30, and even 50 plus year gaps.
1. More support, less competition
Relationships with people your own age especially those you went through life’s stages with can be fraught with both overt and covert competition. It may not even be a conscious decision made by the participants, just the product of competitive environments like school. Friendships with older friends are largely saved from this, allowing friends to be more supportive of each other without constantly comparing each other and competing. Inter-generational friends are at different stages of life and so have no need to compete.
2. Different perspectives
Older people have lived in a different world and as a result, have different perspectives on life and other attendant issues than those of younger people who have also come of age at a different time. These differences in viewpoint and even worldview can be not only interesting but also very informative.
Older people have a longer and wider view of things having been around a while and connect the dots in ways younger people who have a limited scope of events just cannot. Older people also stand to benefit a lot from younger friends in a world in which some previously strongly held views are being challenged and even discarded. The relationship is enhanced by the differences in worldview and perspective that each person brings into it.
3. Wisdom and insights
Older people having been there and done that are a great source of real-life wisdom and insights. They are not speaking theoretically on many of the life issues that younger people may just be musing and ruminating about.
They have practical advice even though it may just be based on their own experiences on everything from thriving in the workplace and surviving romantic relationships gone sideways. It’s not just about the wisdom they share on purpose but also just looking at their lives and the choices they have made can give you guidance about what you want or do not want. The ones who are really blunt, honest and introspective about their life choices in hindsight can save you from some terrible life choices. They have this accumulated wisdom that cannot just be found in a book.
4. Value Friendship
Older people value relationships far more than younger people. The younger you are the more invincible you think you are and likely the more you assume you will have good relationships in your life and your future. The longer you stay alive, the more you realize that there are no guarantees, no assurances that you will have some great relationships. You see how fleeting it is and how easily lost and broken even good friendships are. You know what it means to lose friends to everything from petty misunderstandings to death. You understand that it takes effort to create a lasting friendship and are willing to be that good friend. Older friends appreciate and value relationships and can always be counted on to be there, with good advice and warm feelings to boot.
The significant age gap in friendships with older people brings with it valuable benefits, so maybe discard society’s notions of propriety and respect and make you some older friends.
For more on friendships, here’s a piece on how to maintain strong and lasting relationships.