An essay by Dr. Jennifer Sasser, gerontology program director, was published in the International Journal of Reminiscence and Lifelong Learning in January 2015.
Dr. Jennifer Sasser, chair of the human sciences department and director of the gerontology program, authored an essay on intergenerational friendships in the July/August 2013 issue of Aging Today, the bimonthly newspaper of the American Society on Aging.
The American Society on Aging is the leading multi-disciplinary membership-based organization in the field of aging that focuses solely on developing and honing its members' knowledge and leadership skills. Since 1954, ASA has attracted more than 100,000 practitioners, educators, administrators, policymakers, academics, business people and students.
An excerpt from Dr. Sasser's article, Connecting Across Generations, Finding a True Friend:
I have worked in the field of gerontology more than half my life, beginning in my teenage years as a certified nursing assistant. For the past 20 years, I've gathered rich experiences not only about later life and adult aging, but also about the complexities of traveling through the life course. For quite some time I have been preoccupied with questions about intergenerational friendships, about how persons of different ages and generations might come together to foster real friendships. There isn't much in the scholarly literature to inform such relationships.
My youngest friend is 7. Her mother was my former graduate student, and over the past decade we've become close friends and colleagues. How do I know that my best friend's daughter and I are friends in our own right? Because we want to spend time together, and we have an unspoken understanding about things. Something wild in her responds to something wild in me.
Another friend is half my age. He came to the United States seeking safety. In his increasingly traditional native country he faced persecution because of his sexuality, religious beliefs and political affiliations. Not only are we at different points along the life course, but also we are about as different from one another as two humans can be. But, despite our many differences, we are on the same wavelength.
These examples are meant to bring out the idea that intergenerational friendships don't have to be only between children and older adults in controlled, formal settings, like you'd find in a senior center or in intergenerational programming. They exist in all contexts, up and down the generations.
The full article can be found in the July/August 2013 issue of Aging Today.
More of Jennifer Sasser's writing can be found at GeroPunkProject.org.