Intergenerational friendships of older adults: why do we know so little about them?

    Abstract

    Intergenerational
    projects bringing together older adults and younger adults are
    increasingly common, but there is little research on unstructured,
    naturally occurring interaction, and in particular friendship between
    different generations. The aim of this article is to interrogate why we
    know so little about adult intergenerational friendship. A systematic
    literature search on this topic, covering a 30-year period, yielded only
    six articles which satisfied the inclusion criteria. This prompted us
    to examine how the topics of intergenerational friendship and friendship
    in old age have been approached in the literature to date. We argue
    that the paucity of research on intergenerational friendship reflects
    the focus of existing research on homophily, and consequently
    friendships among older or younger adults;
    and that this in turn reflects a social construction of older adults as
    unsuited to friendship with younger adults. Investigations of
    intergenerational friendship can help challenge the images and models of
    ageing and older adults that both research and societies currently
    operate with, and are constrained by. We conclude by calling for
    research that explores the views and experiences of older adults as
    parties to intergenerational relationships that are non-kin, chosen and
    based on mutual enjoyment.

    Published by Residential Forum

    The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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