Building bridges between the young and the old has lasting physical, mental and emotional benefits.
The number of people living in multigenerational households – those with two or more adult generations (or with a younger, “skipped” generation) – is on the rise. According to a study by Legal and General, in the UK there are around 1.8 million multigenerational households, which has increased significantly since the 2000s. “Skip-generation” households, where grandparents and their young grandchildren pair up, are also increasing in frequency. Many cultures throughout history have demonstrated the benefits of extended intergenerational connection, and multigenerational households are still the standard in many places.
Living among people from a different era enables us to better understand and appreciate one another. It broadens perspectives across the generational divide, decreases feelings of loneliness and improves overall quality of life.
For the elderly bringing younger generations into their lives can promote happiness and encourage physical activity among some who might otherwise remain fairly idle. Research shows that when older adults spend time with younger ones there are obvious upward trends in the elderly’s strength and levels of activity.
For young adults living solo, mixed-age interactions act as a first line of defence against isolation and depression. Intergenerational relationships also cultivate purpose and a solid support system, which encourages mental wellness.
Sharing a common purpose allows people to break away from socialising only within their own age range—and you don’t have to be related to members of a generation apart from your own to benefit from living, or spending significant time, with them.
A social experiment in Sweden attempted to alleviate loneliness among young people and retirees by throwing the generations together. The Sallbo Project asks every tenant of a building that houses a mix of tenants under 25 and retirees to sign a contract promising to spend at least two hours a week with a tenant of the other generation.
Having neighbours from different generations builds a reciprocal relationship. Young people can teach older people the ins and outs of the digital world – simplifying smartphones and online bill payments – while older people can impart life wisdom and perspective for the benefit of the young. Each can share their generation’s skill set with the other.
Purpose and worth evolve from feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. A connection with a different generation can add to your feeling of purpose and belonging. Generations are like puzzle pieces, each bringing something different to the table to form a complete picture of life.
Grab a game or find something fun to share with your generational counterparts and start enjoying the benefits of being together.