Inter-generational Friendships and Paying It Forward In the Decades of Life

Friends Can Boost Health, Well-Being Among Older AdultsHearing my oldest daughter appreciate advice she received from someone who is a decade older who has already been through what my daughter is now experiencing with educational and extracurricular choices and decisions regarding the grandchildren reminded me of the importance of having friends one decade and two decades older than oneself.

I told her that I thought she was in the hardest decade, the forties.  It is a most intense period of career building, balancing spouse and family, and trying to find the time to nurture self, which seems to always come last.  The twenties are now the experimental decade, rather than the coming together, mating and beginning families which for us Boomers was the twenties, and now is the thirties, and moving into the forties.  The fifties still are the ‘make it or break it’ decade for the individual and the entire family, when school and college acceptances and the family restructuring is at the same time as business success and making it in life is also foremost.  I cannot say that the fifties are more or less stressful than the forties, just different stress.  Those two decades are the busiest overall, where we seem in constant movement and we are chasing life or more aptly, life is chasing us.  It is not until the sixties that I think life really begins to be joyful and one knows ones place in the world.  I remember that my Father told me that, but I was too young to understand that age had its benefits.  Time for self when one finally understands its value is found in the sixties . . . .and then comes the best part of life, the grandchildren. I did not want the seventies and retirement and fought it, and now find this decade a blessing in disguise.  One has the time to pursue all that brings joy and life experience to know what that is.  Yes, health issues do intervene in this decade and bring stress and challenges in a different form to overcome.

Our discussion also reminded me that one should also pay it forward.  I told her that she should cultivate friendships with at least one like-minded person one decade younger and two decades younger.   Now seventy one, I appreciate having a close friend for forty years who is a decade older, who has guided me and provided answers to what I was going through and what I might expect.  From career to child rearing to educational to even travel tips, she has been my go to person.  I appreciate her friendship and advice in so many areas.  To my close friend who is eleven years younger, I know I have repeated that I understand what she is going through and can give her my years of experience and my mistakes, too.  To my close friend who is between the age of my oldest and youngest daughter and another who is the age of my youngest daughter, I know that they listen and appreciate my experience and advice; they two do not have the emotional baggage of my being their mother, and have a different perspective as to who I am in their world.

We know that cultivating friendships enriches our lives and actually extends our lives, especially as we get longer (we never say older).  See, for example, “Friends Can Boost Health, Well-Being Among Older Adults: These relationships can benefit you even more than family,” by Kim Hayes, AARP Magazine, July 6, 2017.

We know that as we retire, we have time again to create new friendships, our friendships change, and friendships are different for men and women.  See, for example, “Why Friendship Changes As We Age,” by Linda Abbit, Senior Planet, August 17, 2016.

I love the quote by Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., Linda Abbit has chosen to begin her article: “With self-reflection and increased wisdom comes the realization that we really should maximize the amount of good relationships we have and not spend so much time on the ones that aren’t good.”  Yes, with living longer, we have the luxury of self reflection, and if we are lucky, increased wisdom, and we should share those benefits of years well lived.

But, I see scant literature on cultivating friendships with those a decade or so older or a decade or so younger.  Then, I found a wonderful article that says it all, “The Age-Defying Benefits Of Having Older (And Younger) Friends,” by Meredith Melnick, The Huffington Post, May 6, 2014.  When writing that “maybe some of that self-confidence will rub off,” she reminded me that as we get older, we “not only have the benefit of experience, [we]’re also less afraid of the opinions of others — so are more likely to say what [we] think.”  That is so true!  I now know with GG (Great Grandmother), that when I hit the nineties, all filters will be gone.  Read her article and learn the many ways that intergenerational friendships enrich our lives.  We can get to pay it forward for those we care about.

Yes, we can be mentors to our own family and our own children with our experience and long lives, but we can do more for ourselves and others.  As quoted in Meredith Melnick’s article:

“Bridging the generation gap not only increases the friend pool, but it also expands and supports mental well-being,” Anna Kudak, co-author of What Happy Women Do, told the magazine. “Friendships with older and younger people help broaden your perspective, which in turn allows you to have compassion and empathy in your day-to-day life.”

Inter-generational friendships are a win-win in life.  Life is learning something new every day.  Life should be expansive to be fulfilling. Keep that win-win going and pay it forward! I am now enjoying the cultivating of a new friendship with a dynamic and interesting woman three decades younger, where she is broadening my perspective as I learn so much from her with





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