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.
Do you have friends outside your peer group? How did you find them and what have they taught you?
Images via Martha Galvan for Darling Issue No. 18
As a female professional wedding photographer over 50, I often develop a warm relationship with the Bride-to-be, something that actually came unexpected. I worried that starting my business after 40 would be tricky, perhaps the couples would expect a “young, dashing, male photographer” and not regard me as having the skills or ability to “relate.” I was wrong on several levels. I came to find the bride actually felt closer and more relaxed with me. I often become a mother figure that is trusted and provides for a much better shoot all around because the bride is relaxed with me taking photos. This is a time when the bride usually appreciates someone who understands and can bring about some calm to the unexpected stress that comes with the “Big Day.” I enjoy going over and above what the average wedding photographer may do by making sure to bring in some snacks and water while the bride and her bridesmaids are getting ready, having an “emergency kit of safety pins, hair pins, a white sheet (to place under the brides for formals if taken outside off the pavement) and other emergency items she might need. I work with the couple, but more so with the bride-to-be months before the ceremony and try to form a trusting relationship. Its very rewarding to be a part of her day as more then just the wedding photographer! We usually remain in touch well after the wedding day.
Thank you for your thoughtful article.
This is an insightful article with a positive message that I greatly enjoyed.
I might add a word of caution to the younger person seeking to benefit from the ‘wisdom’ of older people–select your ‘mentor’ with a discerning eye. The same rules apply when forming a friendship regardless of age. I wouldn’t discount red flags that would dissuade me from engaging strictly because someone is older.
Age is prism that reveals the enduring qualities of a person. Time draws out the wings of an angel, but also exposes the scales of a dragon.
That being said, is there anything more magnetic than a person who has lived—and is living—a life they can earnestly be proud of?
Could not agree more with all of this. Mentorship has been a pivotal experience throughout my life. From having dance teachers provide insight, perspective and wisdom while I battled the weird and wild years of female teenage-hood to connecting with professional mentors that helped to coach and guide me in my self discovery and awareness throughout my 20s – cross generational mentorship and relationships have been a force for INSANE amounts of good in my short life. On meeting mentors: when someone inspires you, when their story ignites curiosity somewhere deep in your guts, when you get a sense of ‘Holy CRUD I need to learn from that person’ – reach out. Attend speaker panels, read, listen to podcasts – and when you find a voice that feels like wisdom wrapped in one BIG soul-loving hug, say something; making a bold request for some guidance or for someone to share their story with you isn’t only a gift for you to learn through, but a gift for the person sharing and brining their story, their voice, their truth, into light. #endrant — and THANK YOU Darling Mag for this post. So important.
I look at the gated communities for people 50+ and wonder why anyone would want to live isolated from the sounds of children playing and the everyday bustle of a multi-generational neighborhood. Homogeneous energy. My only regret is I didn’t spend enough time with my grandma. My life is richer with my relationships, some really close, with people older and younger than I. I value that in my life. And happily, it seems those “others” do as well. Nice article.
Just reading the title encourages me! Nicole’s points are excellent reminders about the benefits of relating across generations. Wisdom is shared, loneliness is cured, perspectives are changed. I want to celebrate that the positive possibilities flow both ways. We all have a contribution to make, and when we can make room for others, often surprising things happen. Hurray for the gift of relationships!
This is so true! I certainly have friends who are in a different area of life than me, and I’ve learned so much from them. Which reminds me, I should hit them up to catch up soon.
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog