The Benefits of Having Much Older Friends and Much Younger Ones
When I was little, I loved visiting my neighbors, Alice and Nell. They would serve ladyfingers and pink lemonade in a garden lined with bleached white clam shells. I sat in their knitting circle – threading thread through oversized plastic buttons, stunned by the excitement of listening to an adult conversation.
I was 5 years old at the time, and Alice and Nell were in their 80s. Despite the eight decades that separate us, I consider them my first friends. Today, my closest friends are 46 like me, or just a few years older or younger. While it’s more common to have friends your age, An AARP study finds that four in ten adults have a friend who is at least 15 years older or younger than they are.
“Intergenerational friendships can be mutually rewarding,” says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., author of a book on female friendships called Best friends forever. A psychologist and friendship expert who writes on the friendship blog, Levine has been friends with one of her elementary school teachers whom she calls her “model and mentor” for over 50 years – until the day of the death of her friend.
As we mature, friendships are formed around our commonalities and our interests, more necessarily our age. “We are less likely to know everyone’s age because we are not all grouped together as if we were in school. We are now working with, living next door and attending events with people of all ages, ”says Shasta Nelson, author of The friendship business: making the most of our relationships where we spend most of our time.
A wider social network is created as you move away from years of formal education: you can volunteer, join a book club, go to church, travel or enter the workforce where, according to the AARP study, you are more than twice as likely to befriend another generation as you are elsewhere.
My sister Joelle Bruno, 42, met Ginger Feola, 70, at a high school in New Jersey where they both worked in the guidance counseling department. When Feola discovered that “ringing New Years in Times Square” was next on Bruno’s bucket list, she replied, “Me too. Let’s go!”
“It was a once in a lifetime experience. We had so much fun, ”says Bruno. They took the train in the city together, watched the ball fall and went on TV with Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy.
Although Bruno and Feola are separated by 30 years, the age difference is not relevant. “Joelle is so open and friendly that it’s easy to gravitate to her,” says Feola. “When we are together, it makes me feel that we are the same age.”
Although they talk on the phone, Bruno and Feola spend most of their time in person, which is not surprising given that more than 50% of intergenerational friends mainly engage in face-to-face communications, notes AARP. When possible, this adventurous duo visits open-air markets, concerts or trendy restaurants. Bruno even planned Feola’s retirement dinner with their colleagues. “I love our conversations and the advice Ginger gives me,” says Bruno. “Without Ginger, I wouldn’t have a 403b retirement plan.”
Nelson says this is one of the main benefits of an age difference friendship. “Having an older friend helps us “try” certain life experiences before we get there – whether it’s watching a friend lose a parent or retiring before us – and feeling more ready for what is to come. in the future stages of life,” she explains.
Anne Smith, 66, of New York City and Beth Tripmacher, 41, of Brooklyn also met at work, when Smith hired Tripmacher as editor in a publishing house in 2005. What started as a manager-employer relationship has turned into friendship, despite their age difference of 25 years.
Even if they no longer work together, they still see each other often. They like going to dinner and the theater, going for bike rides and working out in the same gymnasium. “Sometimes we just order food and cocktails and sit in Anne’s apartment, chat, laugh and catch up,” says Tripmacher. “The funny thing is that I have more in common with Anne than with some of my friends my age.”
Tripmacher is now the director of content operations at the Sundance Institute, and Smith met her at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2020. They went to see a movie, had dinner late, and then got a Lyft tour of a “very hip ” driver, “recalls Smith. “We were – Beth and I – in Park City, Utah, driving in an all-terrain jeep and listening to Sam Cooke. Very cool.”
There is indeed something “cool” and liberating about befriending someone of a different generation from yours. “Sometimes it’s younger friends who give us more permission to tap into a side of us that might have more energy or that might want to take more risks,” Explains Nelson.
Some friendships linked to the age gap are motivated by shared values and a passion for changing the world. Lara Thorne, 29, and Jane Drichta, 51, are both midwives who became friends by volunteering at a maternity hospital in Kurdistan, Iraq in 2018. They ended up not only working together, but also by living together for nine months. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that continues today, despite the fact that Thorne lives in London and Drichta in Seattle.
“With Jane, no subject is banned and we are completely honest with each other,” said Thorne. I know I can call him – any time of the day or night – to laugh, cry, declaim or share an idea. Our best moments are spent philosophizing until late at night. ”
Thorne and Drichta send messages to each other every day and make video calls several times a week. “We talk about everything under the sun,” says Drichta. “We can tease each other mercilessly, but there’s really nothing we wouldn’t do for each other. We look so alike, it’s a little scary.”
Many “age is just a number” friendships are wrapped in comfortable comfort that is more like a brotherhood. This is the case of Kelly Johnson, 50, and Jessica Frolli, 35, both Californians, friends for 15 years.
They text each day and meet in person at least once a month. Johnson says, “We both love Halloween and scary movies. We organize movie nights or we go to art fairs, or just spend time in our homes. ”
Frolli believes that Johnson is honest and frank with her. “I can tell her everything – even the pretty things – and she always loves and supports me,” says Frolli.
“We know that everyone’s life is different, but we remember it more easily with a friend who is at a different stage in life. This openness can lead to less comparison, less judgment, less competition ”, Explains Nelson.
In fact, one of the best things about an intergenerational friendship is its authenticity: the elements of jealousy or self-awareness or following whoever you want to follow are almost nonexistent.
When Bruno left alone and bought a condo, Feola shared his joy. “I was delighted for her,” she says. “A real joy.” And Tripmacher says of Smith, “She’s always encouraging and encouraging, whether I’m leaving for a new job or making a bigger life decision – she’s the best cheerleader.”
When you seek and maintain a friendship with someone who is not in your age group, trivial things fall by the wayside: it will lift you up, support you, take you to that dreaded medical appointment, you drive to the airport, share a bottle of wine, laugh with you until you both pee. In it you will find a friend who is more like your family – your safety net, your biggest fan and your foolproof support system. It sounds a bit perfect, doesn’t it?
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