Why We Need Intergenerational Relationships

For centuries, families lived close together, often with multiple generations sharing the same roof. Family structures enabled older generations to share their wisdom, help care for children, and help the younger generation learn from their experience. The younger generation energized older generations and helped them as they faced health issues that affected daily living. These intergenerational relationships contributed to the wellbeing of everyone involved. 

However, economic factors — like moving out of state for a new job — and social factors like the rise of divorce and single-parent households, have contributed to the fragmentation of families, with family members sometimes living thousands of miles apart. Intergenerational relationships which once happened organically have been lost or changed dramatically. While the impact of this loss may be hard to quantify, what we do know is that intergenerational relationships offer many benefits, like greater wellbeing, stronger communities and longevity. That’s why Generations communities encourage and support intergenerational connection at our various locations throughout the year. 

According to the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, there are four primary mutual benefits of intergenerational relationships:

1. Connection

Isolation is common among seniors, with more than 40 percent reporting feeling loneliness on a regular basis. Our senior population is also at higher risk of depression, due to health factors and loss of loved ones. Intergenerational relationships foster connection, alleviating social isolation for seniors and providing important socialization opportunities for children. Research also shows that intergenerational relationships improve self-esteem for youth. “When a child is mentored by an adult, they are: 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs; 27% less likely to begin using alcohol; 52% less likely to skip school.” Intergenerational relationships have been proven to reduce ageism in children while also helping the elderly feel loved and appreciated. 

2. Purpose

Everyone likes to have meaning and purpose in their lives. Intergenerational relationships allow each generation to play an important role for one another. Allowing seniors to mentor and share their life experience gives them purpose, while children can develop communication skills through relating to their elders. The result is greater self-confidence and wellbeing for both. 

3. Learning

Intergenerational relationships expand and enhance brain function, for each generation. By interacting with younger generations, seniors stay engaged, continue to use their brains, and may learn new technology. Each generation has many things to teach the other generation, from stories about life to using technology to hobbies, etc. Through teaching one another, seniors and children gain greater appreciation and understanding for the other, while also learning new skills and perspectives. 

4. Mood

Greater confidence, connection, and sense of wellbeing all contribute to better mood, regardless of age. Seniors report feeling younger by becoming more active and engaged with youth. Younger generations develop greater skills and sense of self, and are more likely to volunteer and rise to leadership positions

Assisted living facilities and memory care centers offer opportunities for seniors and younger generations to forge connections through the staff that work there, providing benefits similar to that of more traditional intergenerational relationships. Some assisted living and/or memory care facilities also offer intergenerational programs, which are designed to bring older and younger generations together for their mutual benefit and wellbeing. 

Generations communities encourage and support intergenerational connection at events throughout the year. Check out the new events calendar at your local Generations community to see what’s available in your area. 

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