Why Intergenerational Relationships are Good for You

When was the last time you hung out with, and got advice from, an older mentor?

In a national report released this month, two out of three adults surveyed said they want to spend time with people who aren’t their age, while three in four wish there were more opportunities to get to know different age groups. Why, then, aren’t there more intergenerational programs and initiatives? And workplace mentors for young employees are becoming increasingly rare.

I Need You, You Need Me: The Young, the Old, and What We Can Achieve Together, published by the nonprofits Generations United and The Eisner Foundation, lays out the case for more mixing of the generations, and suggests ways to achieve it.

An online survey of 2,171 U.S. adults ages 18 and older conducted for the report points to few opportunities for intergenerational interaction. According to the report, in the U.S., “intergenerational friendships are the exception rather than the rule: for the most part, age segregation prevails.”

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Retirement Community of Care

IT’S ONLY MIDMORNING and already Mary Steele has given rides to one teen who missed the school bus and to another who needed to get to work at a nearby mall. Later, Steele, 82, plays trucks with a 5-year-old boy whose mother is at work.

Then she heads over to a monthly gathering where 50 or so residents, ages 2 to 82, mingle and catch up. It’s a raw, rainy New England day, but inside the community center, warmth abounds. Steele and others share lentil soup, fresh bread and abundant hugs. She asks a couple of kids about the puppet show they’re putting on during a school break, inquires about a neighbor’s job at a social service agency and signs a get-well card for someone in the hospital.

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