Why Befriending People of Different Ages is Vital in an Ageist Society

Elizabeth Bennett

April 30, 2021  

Thanks to the school, college and the workplace, we often end up forming friendships with those of the same age. It’s natural to stay close with people in our cohort as we grow old in tandem, sharing life experiences along the way. However, expanding our social circle beyond this  whether that’s with someone younger or older  has a whole host of life-enriching benefits. In fact, according to a study from AARP, 93% agree that being friends with people of different ages provides benefits that are different from the benefits that friendships among people of the same age can deliver. However, the same research found that just over a third of Americans had a close friend who is at least 15 years older or younger than they are.

Having older friends or young friends is better for society and individuals

As humans, we historically lived in multi-generational groups. It is only in more recent times with urbanization and migration in the Western world that communities and families have become more fractured and separated geographically. “In tribal times we would have connections with people from different generations. We wouldn’t be so boxed in and stick with our cohort,” Performance and Confident coach Olivia James pointed out.

“Intergenerational friendships are a dual win — both for society and the individual,” psychologist and author Sarah Gregg told us. As a society, having an age gap between friends builds community and empathy. “Studies have shown that mixing with different groups helps to break down stereotypes and decreases issues such as ageism,” Gregg highlighted. “For the individual, there are opportunities for both parties to gain a fresh perspective and grow,” she added.

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