In watching the news, reading the paper and scrolling through Twitter, we can see many testimonies of diversity present in culture (ethnic, gender, sexual orientation), but, there seems to be little emphasis placed on the diversity of generations. With life expectancy at an all-time high, there are more people alive today than ever before, making it the perfect time to celebrate our differences and learn from one another while at different ages.
Here are a few reasons why we should value multi-generational relationships and some tips on how to better cultivate these relationships in our lives:
1. They offer us wisdom.
Having someone who has actually experienced life, love, pain, loss and failure provides a much more valuable perspective than anything we can research or study. When someone’s been where you are and believes that you can make it, it creates a confidence that cannot be found in the support of your peers. Having encouragement and being challenged by someone you respect can build the courage you need to pursue your dreams.
2. We prevent depression and isolation.
Living life independently for years can make retirement and possibly having to rely on others difficult. Many older people can feel a loss of individuality or control that can lead to depression and isolation. Being young, filled with dreams for the future can often remind someone experiencing this loss of identity who they are and reinvigorate previous passions.
Taking the time to listen to someone’s stories (even if it’s the same one over and over again) can be a powerful reminder of why they matter and that their voice is being heard.
When someone’s been where you are and believes that you can make it, it creates a confidence that cannot be found in the support of your peers.
3. They provide insight for our future.
When you’re young it feels like time moves slowly; you can’t wait to work a real job and have all the responsibilities of an adult, but time quickly catapults you into adulthood and doesn’t slow down to let you enjoy it. Growing old is a natural part of life and being around those who have already experienced that growth is a healthy reminder of what’s to come. This helps us celebrate today while preparing for tomorrow — seeing a glimpse of what life will look like before we know it.
4. They bring a different perspective to the table.
When someone opposes your ideas it causes you to reflect on why you hold it as truth and leads you to acknowledge that there are other ways of seeing things. If you engage in multi-generational relationships, then the odds are high that there will eventually be a disagreement about something; most people hope to avoid this conflict, but it can be an incredible opportunity to have a healthy dialogue. We can learn, grow and continue to disagree, or, we can create a new idea altogether. This conflict is important to understand that those we disagree with have a face and a story, too. Their opinions matter.
We can actively seek out these friendships by finding common interests, joining mentorship programs, building relationships with those we respect, and by simply finding time to spend with older friends and relatives who we already know.
Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between, there is much to be gained through multi-generational relationships. It’s important that we push ourselves beyond the confines of our own generation, and learn and grow together by sharing stories, insight and perspectives.