Build Relationships Across Generations


Senior adults play a critical role in the lives of our children and youth. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other adults can be great friends and mentors. 

These relationships contribute to the well-being of the younger generation and cultivate joy and purpose for older adults, according to a report from Stanford researchers.

Teens who have strong bonds with their grandparents or other trusted adults often choose to talk with them instead of their parents during challenging times. 

So how do we go about forming these bonds? The truth is you don’t need to learn a hip new vocabulary or know the latest TikTok dance. You just need a little curiosity.

When you remain curious about what other people are experiencing, you become more engaged in the conversation. People of any age can tell when you are genuinely interested in them. Great relationships start with simple conversations

However, if you feel awkward, tongue-tied, or suddenly shy around young people – especially those in the tween/teen years – you’re not alone. It’s normal to feel that way around kids sometimes.

You don’t need to suffer through painful silences or perform circus tricks to get a conversation off the ground. Try these tips to break the ice instead.

Skip the Standard School Questions

Kids are used to grown-ups asking, “So, how is school?”  Nine times out of ten, they will answer with a single word: “Fine.”

You’ll learn a lot more with questions that are focused and open-ended or even silly:

  • Is your teacher more like Godzilla or Mary Poppins?
  • Are you blowing anything up in science these days?
  • What’s the worst food they serve in the cafeteria?
  • Tell me about your best friend.
  • If you could take a field trip anywhere, where would you go?
  • I hear you’re a math wiz, how do you learn so quickly? 
  • Now that you’ve taken Spanish, do you think you’d like to travel abroad? 

You’ll get a fuller picture of their school experience and social lives with questions that dig a little deeper. 

Learn About Their World

 Changing your mindset from “I can’t relate” to “I wonder what that’s like” can open up the possibility of a friendship with someone, regardless of their age.

Try asking:

  • Which shows are you watching right now?
  • What’s the coolest app that I don’t have on my phone?
  • Have you been to any concerts lately? 
  • What are your favorite YouTube channels?
  • What are some things adults don’t realize about teenagers? 

Each generation brings its own unique blend of experiences and ideas. Approach conversation with curiosity to learn more. Don’t be afraid to share your own experiences, too.

Young people are often interested in how you met your spouse, what their parents were like as kids and what you did for fun when you were their age.

Be Consistent 

Like any relationship, a close bond between generations takes time, energy, commitment, and consistency. Regularly scheduled activities, get-togethers, and traditions can establish a rhythm for communication and help to instill a lasting bond filled with memories.

If distance or schedules make regular in-person gatherings difficult, try connecting in other ways. Let them know you are thinking of them by sending them a funny gif, meme or text emoji. (Not familiar with these terms? See the explanation below.)

Consider setting a weekly video call date with Zoom or Facetime. Some video streaming services, like Disney+, even make it possible to have a virtual movie night together. 

Ask your young person how they prefer to communicate and do your best to connect with them in a way that is meaningful to them.

Tools for Talking With the New Generation

GIFs – A series of images or soundless video that will loop continuously and doesn’t require anyone to press play. You can find common gifs here or on your texting platform. 

Meme – A cultural item, typically a photo with a caption, that is spread via the Internet, often through social media platforms. There is a database of commonly used memes and what they mean.

Emoji – A small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc. They are typically used in text messaging and in social media. 

Show You Care

Conversations are more than just your words. People will respond to what your body language is communicating, too. It helps to make eye contact, face the person you’re speaking with, and greet them with a friendly wave or smile.

Let your loved one know they have your full attention and you are interested in what they are saying. 

Give Them Your Approval

People of all ages want the acceptance and approval of their parents and mentors. That feeling never vanishes as we get older. 

Let your grandkids, young friends, and adult children know you are proud of them. They want to hear they are loved unconditionally, especially if they make a mistake. While you may not always make the same choices or have the same ideas, your approval of them as a person means the world.

Sharing your own experiences and even past disappointments can add a new depth to your relationship. So don’t be afraid to share your triumphs and your failures. These experiences are what make us human. 

Consider writing a note or sending a card to tell someone just how proud you are of the person they have become. 

Richer Relationships With Senior Living 

Senior living communities can help you enjoy your retirement with less time spent on home maintenance, laundry or housekeeping and more time with the ones who matter most. 

As a senior adult, you have wisdom and perspective to share with the next generation. Take advantage of these opportunities to build deeper relationships and enjoy the freedom of retirement.

Are you ready to embrace a new season of life with fewer responsibilities? Schedule a Tour or contact us to learn more.