Older adults are a fast-growing proportion of the world’s population and by 2050, it is expected that the number of seniors over the age of 65 will more than double. By 2035, the number of people aged 60 and older will outnumber children younger than 5 years. And as the population ages, more seniors, especially women who often outlive their spouses, will live alone. In addition to the normal challenges of aging, many seniors will also face social isolation and loneliness.
But lacking companionship in older age doesn’t have to be accepted, and the answer might be just beyond your front door. A recent British survey of 2,000 adults found that 75 percent of participants said they consider their neighbours acquaintances at best and the average respondent could only name five people living on their street. And while they might say they are friendly with their neighbours, few study participants said they could actually call them friends.
According to a recent Study Finds newsletter, this lack of community spirit keeps neighbours from feeling comfortable dropping by or even speaking casually to one another. But a sense of community is important for all ages, and especially for older adults who may need help occasionally. Seniors who live alone can benefit from social interaction with people of all ages; and knowing your neighbours can create a safer and more enjoyable living experience for children, adults and seniors.
To age well, you need to create a support network of friends and family. Friendships with older and younger people helps to expand your life experience and broaden your perspective. Every age has something to offer whether it’s technical savvy or career guidance but it may take a little more patience and understanding to cultivate intergenerational friendships. They can, however, be even more rewarding than friendships that rely solely on commonality as their foundation.
Take a chance by inviting some neighbours, of all ages, over to watch a game, have a drink or join a book club. Potluck suppers in the winter months or neighbourhood picnics in the summer create community over shared food. The impact could change the whole experience of what a neighborhood is in today’s culture.
Learn more about the benefits of intergenerational friendships, including a more positive attitude about aging, by following this link to recent research by AARP.