A UK review of the benefits of cross-generational friendships
Having intergenerational or cross-generational friendships can promote mutual understanding, break down stereotypes, reduce prejudice and anxiety. Dr. Hannah Swift shared the highlights of a review carried out in the UK of programs supporting contact between generations.
In many countries, there are programs to support interactions and contact between generations to promote intergenerational solidarity and reduce ageism. A review of existing programs in the UK led to the identification of recommendations for best practice in the areas of business and employment, health and social care, and education.
In all of these areas, there will be clear gains for all if older and younger people are able to mix together in a way that treats them as equals, creates clear common objectives, supports their equal relationship through practice and example, and highlights important similarities and not just differences. Overall, policies that increase positive intergenerational contact across society should benefit society as a whole, promoting more mutual engagement across generations and hence throughout people’s lives.
These recommendations include:
- Provide opportunities for frequent contact between generations;
- Use groups of equal numbers of younger to older people;
- Locate your program in a neutral environment (if possible);
- Design activities that facilitate cooperation, working towards shared goals;
- Provide time for participants to learn about each other as individuals.
Hannah J. Swift, PhD is Eastern ARC Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Group Processes at the University of Kent. Her research focuses on ageism, attitudes to age, stereotype threat, loneliness and well-being, as well as active, healthy ageing.