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Why it’s important to have friends of all ages

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Generation-gap friendships, intergenerational relationships, unlikely companions; call them what you will, friendships between people from different age groups have been proven time after time to be extremely beneficial to all parties involved.

But sadly, it’s a relationship that not everyone gets the chance to enjoy.

From our first day at school, we’re encouraged to make friends with the kids 'our own age', and that pattern becomes the blueprint for friendship that most of us follow right through to adulthood.

Of course, sharing the same generational experiences (fashion faux pas of the 90s, for example) and having our life stages in common makes for plenty of familiar ground.

But the rich, multilayered benefits offered by a friendship with somebody outside of our age bracket just can’t be matched by a peer equal to us in years.

The anecdotal evidence is endless.

generation gap friendship

Katrina Smith, 48, and Kate Rowbottom, 70, are just two of the women who shared their personal experiences of a generation-gap friendship with the Mail On Sunday in 2011.

While Smith said she considers Rowbottom to be a surrogate mother of sorts, and relies on her for everything from advice on raising her children to help with her VAT returns, Rowbottom describes how the friendship has offered her refreshing female companionship, along with encouragement to experiment with more modern pursuits - like daring fashion choices.

It’s a familiar story. The younger friend throwing-up fresh perspectives, the elder handing down knowledge and wisdom. The contrast in life experiences makes for rich conversation, lively debate and incredibly compelling storytelling.

The benefits of which, reach far past anecdotal accounts.

generation gap friendship

“Bridging the generation gap not only increases the friend pool, but it also expands and supports mental well-being,” says Anna Kudak, Ph.D., a coauthor of the book What Happy Women Do.

“Friendships with older and younger people help broaden your perspective, which in turn allows you to have compassion and empathy in your day-to-day life.”

A 2004 study also found that the older we are, the less ambivalent we tend to be towards friendships. A trait already proven to be a cause of stress among social groups, where flakiness can leave people feeling less valued and insecure.

Add all of this to the simple fact that a warm, nurturing friendship has been proven to make us happier, healthier and more likely to live longer, and there’s a compelling case indeed behind looking for friends outside of our own age group.

It's just a number, after all.

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