Student, 19, becomes best mates with a 71-year-old: Benefits of age-gap friendships

Watch: Student becomes best friend with grandmother despite 52-year-age gap

A 19-year-old student who let a stranded grandmother, 71, stay at her flat after she missed her last bus home, has revealed how the pair have become best friends despite a 52-year age gap.

Rebecca McCurry, a sociology student at the University of West of Scotland didn't hesitate to offer Ann, a grandmother-of-five, a place to stay for the night after she spotted her wandering the streets of Glasgow alone.

After joining a party McCurry was at and staying the night at her student halls, the thankful grandmother headed back to Dumfries and Galloway, but the pair stayed in touch.

Despite having more than five decades between them the duo have become firm friends. They talk every day and have visited each other's homes – going for walks, dinners and to the pub together.

Read more: Loneliness epidemic: here's how to make friends as an adult

Rebecca McCurry, 19, and Ann, 71, have become the best of friends despite a 52-year age gap. (Rebecca McCurry/SWNS)
Rebecca McCurry, 19, and Ann, 71, have become the best of friends despite a 52-year age gap. (SWNS)

Ann had been in Glasgow visiting her sick brother when she got stuck trying to get home in March 2021.

Unable to stay in a hotel due to COVID regulations and having missed the last bus home, she was grateful to McCurry for offering her a place to stay.

McCurry first spotted Ann when she headed outside the party she'd been attending.

"I couldn't believe it when she told me she'd been wandering around for so long," McCurry explains.

"It was already about 11.30pm. I made her come in with me and I snuck her past my security by saying she was my granny."

After taking Ann to her room, McCurry planned to head back to the party for a while but her unexpected house guest was keen to come too.

"Ann just turned around and said 'Where's my invite?' so she ended up coming along," the student laughs.

"Everyone loved her."

The following morning McCurry was shocked to discover Ann in her bed the next morning – having momentarily forgotten the previous night's events.

"I saw her short hair poking out of my duvet and I freaked out thinking 'Who is in my bed?'" she says.

"Then I remembered.

"Ann couldn't stop calling me an angel but I was just glad to help."

Read more: Moments of hope amidst the loneliness of lockdown captured in moving photographs

The duo have struck up a successful age-gap friendship. (Rebecca McCurry/SWNS)
The duo have struck up a successful age-gap friendship. (Rebecca McCurry/SWNS)

The grandmother managed to get home safely the next day, but the unlikely friends kept in touch.

"I find her so interesting," McCurry says.

"She's a bit of a hippie and has so many cool stories and has done every job under the sun."

McCurry has since been to visit Ann, with the friends going for dinner, a walk along the beach and to a local pub for some live music.

"It was a lovely weekend," she says.

"We just have the best time together.

"I think she loves finding out what it is like to be a student these days and I love hearing all about her.

"After meeting Ann I'm not scared to get old.

"If that's what it is like to be a pensioner then count me in."

Read more: Look at all the lonely people: Why do over 80% of retirees feel isolated?

Intergenerational friendships are on the rise, partly due to the pandemic. (Getty Images)
Intergenerational friendships are on the rise, partly due to the pandemic. (Getty Images)

The benefits of age-gap relationships

While close friends are often similar in age, recent research from AARP has found nearly four in ten adults (37%) have a good friend who is at least 15 years older or younger than they are.

And it seems intergenerational friendships could be on the rise, thanks, in part, to the pandemic.

"There are a variety of reasons we could be seeing a rise in age-gap friendships," explains psychologist and wellbeing consultant, Lee Chambers.

"For many, the pandemic has brought communities closer and facilitated meetings, changed people's routines and patterns, and encouraged them to try new activities.

"Technology has brought others together, while others have been meeting as they have spent time considering what's important to them and searching outside of their usual networks."

Of course, our social net is also cast a little wider as we age and join fitness groups, book clubs and other social activities that span a variety of age-groups.

Equally you may meet a new age-difference friend in the workforce, where, according to the AARP study, you're more than twice as likely to befriend someone from another generation than anywhere else.

Striking up a friendship with someone much older or younger than you can be mutually rewarding for both of you.

"From an external perspective, there is something exciting and novel about friendships where the age gap spans more than one generation," Chambers explains.

"But behind the heart-warming stories, there are benefits for both parties in bridging the generation gap, and this includes boosting our mental wellbeing, widening our perspective and supporting an increase in empathetic and compassionate behaviours toward yourself and others."

These kinds of friendships can also be positive in terms of breaking down generational stereotypes and assumptions and widening our perspective.

An age-based skill swap may be another advantage to maintaining a relationship with someone of a different generation.

"An older friend may offer the ability to share insights and wisdom, having lived through experiences and built life skills, while younger friends are more likely to be able to share skills around data, technology and popular culture," Chambers explains.

Read more: Meet the woman with 92 grandchildren: Family spans six generations of girls

Striking up an intergenerational friendship can be mutually beneficial. (Getty Images)
Striking up an intergenerational friendship can be mutually beneficial. (Getty Images)

More benefits come from having shared interests and connecting through passions and activities.

"This facilitates discussion and joint expression, something valuable to both friends and a feeling of belonging," Chambers adds. "There is even the ability to feel more confident around other generations, gaining exposure to different and diverse viewpoints, and feeling more connected to our own family across the generations."

One of the most important pluses however, has to be the potential these friendships have to ward off loneliness.

"Age gap friendships give so much to both sides, and generate deep bonds that stave off loneliness and isolation, which is prevalent across the generations," Chambers explains.

"Whether the older friend is sharing history and culture or the younger friend sharing the latest technology and trends, there is no better time to have a spectrum of friends across generations as we continue to navigate the dynamic world we live in."

Additional reporting SWNS.