I’m an old soul. As a young girl I loved the serenity of my grandmother’s retirement community, as a preteen E.M. Forster novels and cups of tea, then as a teen libraries and yoga at the YWCA.
In some ways though I’ve aged backwards in a Benjamin Buttonesque way, as the tension of an awkward anxious child worked itself out under the pressure of multiplying years. I’m no less awkward, but considerably less tense about it.
An interest in the arts combined with a work history full of customer service jobs has lent itself to my having a wide age range of friends, and I highly recommend it. I’m learning from my friends twenty years older than me; about work, education, and what to expect from aging. I’m learning from my friends twenty years younger than me; about fearlessness, openness, possibilities, and change.
Despite the constant media play pitting generations against each other I think various urban factors may encourage more intergenerational friendships and communities. For example, in an attempt to deal with both housing shortages and an aging population intergenerational home sharing programs have shown great benefits to participants beyond the basic need of shelter. A praiseworthy program out of the UK called The Cares Family provides a way for young professionals and their older neighbours to meet, hang out, and learn together. As Cares points out, “ while older people are the loneliest age group in the country, people from 21 to 35 are the second loneliest group.”
I’ve found as I’ve aged that my interests still do not necessarily fit into the categories that society would deem as appropriate for my age. It has not been as simple as ageing into my old soul.
We sort, or categorize people, because it’s easier on our brain. And yes, of course there are general differences culturally from which to sort (in whatever category you happen to be sorting in). But equally true is that no group is completely monolithic, and especially not one as inclusive as age.
I hope that groups like The Cares Family continue to grow and that more college-aged students discover the benefits of rooming with older people. I think it will help break down stereotypes and build communities centered around people and not shopping districts. Intergenerational friendships make us all wiser, kinder, and a lot less lonely.