Seniors and the Benefits of Friendships


The world was recently enrapt with the ongoing generational battle between Baby Boomers and Gen Z. Yet, there may be scientific evidence that the generations can gain more from connecting with each other than disengaging!

Nowhere is this more crucial than with the eldest generation and the youngest. For elderly individuals, here is a brief synopsis on what seniors can gain from intergenerational friendships!

Promoting brain health

Spending time with someone younger than you may be a key component to maintaining brain health as you age. A study conducted by Hopkins professor Michelle Carlson revealed that elderly adults had “improved brain and cognitive function” after volunteering in an intergenerational program. Carlson goes on to say that the time spent with younger people helped “dust off the cobwebs in [senior] brains.”

Finding wellness through socialization

One of the main components of a multi-aged friendship is time spent with friends. This period of socializing is crucial for maintaining wellness as you age. Socializing has a myriad of health benefits. These include, but are not limited to: reduced stress, a lower risk of depression, heightened self-esteem, and the list goes on! Through fostering regular friend time, seniors are given regular bouts of healthy socialization.

A new perspective

Intergenerational friendships provide the elderly with a fresh, younger perspective. There is a certain joy in seeing the world through the eyes of the young. For seniors, this joy is reflexively applied to their own life as they age.

In fact, a study conducted by Harvard psychiatrist George Valliant found that those adults who fostered friendships with the young “tripled the chances that the decade of the 70s would be a time of joy and not despair.”

A sense of purposeful living

The cross-generational friendship is so healthful to seniors because it fulfills one of their main desires: to be needed. As we age, it’s only natural to think about the nature of our purpose. Ageism makes us wonder: where can I be of use and needed?

For intergenerational friendships, seniors can feel needed through a younger person’s dependency. For many young children, it is believed 4-6 stable adult figures are required in order to meet development goals.

Thus, we have a scenario in which a child needs attention to feel validated, whereas a senior needs to feel needed to receive validation. A cross-generational friendship fulfills both of these desires!