Gen Z is the worst at connecting with their grandparents, but building a better relationship could help fight loneliness. How to start

Gen Z is the worst at connecting with their grandparents, but building a better relationship could help fight loneliness. How to start

With all the to-dos—homework, job responsibilities, hanging with friends—it seems that calling your grandparents falls to the bottom of the list—at least if you’re a member of Gen Z.

In a survey shared exclusively with Fortune, and conducted by Carewell, an at-home caregiving company, nearly a third of Americans (32%) say they have a very close or strong relationship with their grandparents. That differs by generation, however, with only 18% of Gen Z saying they have a strong relationship with grandparents compared to 32% of millennials and 41% of Gen X. 

“One of the protective factors in community health and well-being is social cohesion and connectedness,” Cío Hernández, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist, previously told Fortune. “Safety and connection is vital for us as a species.”

As loneliness plagues seniors and young adults alike, fostering familial relationships between generations could help protect against the negative effects of isolation, including depression, heart disease and dementia.

“Depending on your level of mobility and different health factors, aging can be lonely and socially isolating. These moments of connection are so important,” Bianca Padilla, CEO and cofounder of Carewell, told Fortune in an email interview.

The majority of survey respondents said it was harder to make time for their grandparents as they got older, so improving grandparent-grandchild relationships for Gen Z may have the most significant benefits for both parties.

The power of making time 

The survey of over 550 Americans found that time was the enemy. Fifty-seven percent of respondents say the amount of free time they have influences their ability to call their grandparents, and 45% say it’s about schedule availability.

Making space to connect with grandparents, however, can have massive benefits—mitigating the health consequences of loneliness, and helping spread knowledge, experience, and perspective across generations. When Gen Z most connected with grandparents they came away with lessons on kindness, family bonding, work ethic, and resilience, according to the survey. Gen X and millennials had similar learnings.

“The more time we spend with our grandparents, the more memories we make with them. These memories can stay with us long after our loved ones are gone, inspiring us with the lessons we learned and the love we felt,” Brianna Maguire, a member of Carewell’s customer care team, wrote in a press release. 

What’s more, intergenerational connections—familial or not—make us healthier, happier and wiser, according to research. 

When then-17-year-old Emmett Daniels befriended 76-year-old Antoinette-Marie Williams in a program fostering intergenerational connection, wisdom sailed in both directions. 

“We talk about anything and everything. We talk about what’s going on in his life, and that’s rewarding for me,” Williams previously told Fortune about her friendship with Daniels, whom she sees as a son. Daniel also said his relationship with Williams put the day’s stressors, like applying for college, into perspective by giving him “a breath of fresh air.”

Small steps toward connection 

The survey found that the most common way people stay in touch with their grandparents is by calling, followed by in-person visits, texting, and then video calls. Gen Z was most likely to say that technology positively impacted their connections with their grandparents. Almost half, 45%, of total respondents call their grandparents weekly, 30% call monthly, 7% call yearly, and 11% never call. If technology can help bridge the gap and instill connection, the too-busy barrier is the ultimate hurdle. 

Luckily, developing connections with grandparents begins with small steps. If you’re commuting or walking to the grocery store, consider calling your grandparents. Invite them along to things you already have to do, Padilla suggests.

Set reminders on your phone to check in. Send a quick text when something makes you think of them. Get curious: Ask what kind of music they like; what hobbies they enjoyed when they were younger; what they found most challenging about being your age.

“It can be powerful—and meaningful—for both parties to spend some time just asking questions and writing things down,” Padilla says. “What was their favorite trip they ever took? Who was their best friend? What were their big dreams and goals?”

“Go and bug your grandparents and relatives. Tell them how important they are, not just for you, but so the future generations can know about their family,” Hernández said. 

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