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Intergenerational friendships benefit young and old alike

July 11, 2014

What do an 89-year-old WWII veteran and a 3-year-old bicycle enthusiast have in common? In Emmett Rychner and Erling Kindem's case, it's a love of tomatoes. ABC News reported on the duo's unlikely friendship, which all started with the fruit. Emmett befriended his older neighbor Erling one day after asking if he had any tomatoes growing in his garden, and the two have been inseparable ever since. Together, they race their tractors, fix up bikes and play baseball. Even with their pending separation – one is moving to a bigger house, and the other to an assisted living community – they still have plans to reunite as soon as they're both settled.

The value of the generation gap for seniors
Emmett and Erling may have been onto something special without even knowing it. Countless studies have shown that the presence of children promotes healthy aging and reduces certain types of anxiety in seniors. And as the Healthy Aging Partnership found, the younger generations can also help improve seniors' moods and ultimately improve their overall health.

Older adults can also learn a thing or two from youngsters. For starters, they can be acquainted with new technology and trends. Despite concerns with Internet safety, both young and old generations feel at ease going online, according to a report by AARP and Microsoft. Today, children are becoming familiar with smartphones and tablets soon after they learn to walk. By sharing this knowledge, children can help seniors stay in the know and feel rejuvenated in the presence of a younger generation.

The benefits go both ways
Young people also benefit from the generation gap. With insight into an older generation, children can escape from the pressures that may come with interacting with their peers. Seniors are able to show children a better understanding of the world around them and act as valuable role models.

Seniors and children can help each other in all aspects of life. Intergenerational relationships are useful for people of all ages to grow both emotionally and mentally. After all, you never know who will teach you the most valuable life lessons.