The modern world can be a very strange place to grow up in, with many children spending much of their free time watching life on a screen or growing up in a virtual world, talking on social media with people they don’t really know in the real world. Spending time talking to and playing with older adults can help to alleviate some of the more negative influences of technology and bring reality back into their lives whilst also giving them a sense of purpose.

The benefits of Intergenerational relationships for the young

Talking to adults can help the young to develop essential life skills:

  • The ability to converse, listen and empathise – all important skills which will help during the journey to adulthood.
  • To recognise mood through body language and vocal intonation – leaving them less vulnerable to negative peer pressure.
  • Children/youngsters can learn values and morals from the elderly.
  • Older people are far more accustomed to fixed rules and discipline and can help the young learn how to fit into society and become well rounded human beings.
  • By sharing their own earlier goals and achievements, the elderly can show the young how to focus their efforts and gain their own future rewards. 

Providing the link between generations:

  • Word of mouth stories and family history provide future generations with a real sense of where they came from and what led to today – this knowledge can provide greater continuity and perspective which in turns helps to provide the young with positive self-esteem and confidence in who they are and where they are from.
  • The older generation has lived through some of the greatest changes and challenges in history – from wars, famines and economic slumps through to immense advances in technology. Listening to their stories can provide wisdom and insights which can last for life.
  • Sharing the more traditional hobbies and skills of a much older generation can introduce children to the wider possibilities available to them in the future, for employment or leisure. 

An understanding of the order of life:

  • Children who regularly mix with older adults are less likely to be ageist! All children naturally think that everyone is ‘old’ but knowing that the elderly are still alert, intelligent and have plenty of knowledge to impart stops the younger generation assuming that the older one has nothing to offer.
  • Spending time with the elderly normalize the life process – people age, they may at times get ill and eventually we all die but often, as parents, we think we should protect our children from this knowledge. In fact, children who grow up fully aware of the life process are far less likely to struggle with their own ageing and frailties.

Extra time and attention:

  • Children benefit from being made to feel special – being actively encouraged by an adult, aside from a parent, can massively boost confidence and self-esteem and help them to work harder at school and strive for even greater approval.
  • Children can get undivided time and attention from an older adult that their own tired or busy parents often can’t give them.
  • An older adult can give children someone safe to confide in if they feel anxious or threatened – the world can be a large and confusing place even for older children and teenagers. Having a wiser and more experienced elder can sometimes provide a much-needed listening ear or a guiding hand that is independent of parental influence or concern.

There is a significant benefit to both young and old in having close intergenerational connections and friendships. The challenge will lie in persuading a widespread commitment to bring both ends of the spectrum together to benefit both society and individuals alike.