Just over a month ago, 13 women joined me on a winter retreat in northern Minnesota. I was the oldest by at least 15 years (I’m 55). Most of them were in their 20s.
We had amazing accommodations, meals and activities with Adventurous Christians (Gunflint Trail, in northern Minnesota). But one of the main reasons I wanted to plan this retreat in the first place was to spend time with this wonderful group of young women outside of church.
And they were excited to spend time with me and the other “older woman” of the group, 40-year old Alison. Why?
We’re all members of a church in the Twin Cities that majors on multi-generational interaction. We’re used to it and have grown to love it.
It helps that my 25-year old daughter is friends with all these 20-somethings, and several of them are former piano students of mine.
But the way our church leadership has focused on connecting the generations has been a huge factor in our belief in its value, and even necessity.
If this isn’t something you’ve thought about or pursued in your own life—close friendships with women 20-30 years older or younger than you—here are some reasons why you should:
Why Cross-Generational Friendships are So Enriching
When I was a 20-something, and I guess even back in high school, a couple women from my church who were then in their 40s or 50s poured time, effort and friendship into my young life.
They mentored me (informally—mentoring wasn’t really a thing back then). They encouraged me. They made room for my interests and gifts. And they did this over a period of several years.
It meant so much to me then. And I look back with thankfulness on that time, now 30 years and more later. I’m still in touch with those women so many years later.
So I know as a young person, it’s important to have meaningful relationships with older women. Yes, with our mom and family members, too…but not just family.
Now that I’m the older woman, I want to make myself available to those a generation behind me so they can have the same experience.
And why is it especially meaningful to get away from normal church life, work life, whatever life and spend time cross-generationally, together in the outdoor space?
There’s nothing like getting away for a time to deepen those relationships.
The Younger Generation is Energetic & Adventurous
Honestly, I love being around our kids and their 20-something friends. When I’m around them, I feel younger, too!
Their adventurous spirit and energy are contagious. They want to try new things. Go places. Experience life.
In this particular group, all of them loved the outdoors and were ready for a weekend in the snow.
Only three other older woman were even willing to come (none of the others were willing to spend two days without indoor plumbing in the winter in northern Minnesota—go figure), but some family obligations came up so two had to bow out.
The Older Generation is Wise & Experienced
At least we hope we are! 😉 To grow older physically without adding wisdom at the same time is a waste of aging!
Being around someone with not just 5 years of life experience, but 10 years, 20 years, 30 years…We have something to offer these younger women they can’t find in a book or through a sermon or by talking to their peers.
We’ve learned through life experience. We’ve grown in wisdom and insight over the years. We’re learned hard lessons—sometimes the hard way, sometimes because of our own mistakes or sin. And we can pass what we’ve learned to these younger ones.
The more the generations can dialogue together, rub shoulders, serve together, snowshoe and hike together—the better for all of us.
A Northwoods Winter Retreat
Our time—two nights and just one full day—wasn’t nearly long enough. But we managed to pack a ton of stuff in and still feel like we had some time to relax, chat, enjoy each other’s company and get to know the AC staff a little.
Full of Fun Activities
We went on a guided snowshoe hike. Part of the group went on a guided cross country ski trek. A few of them played broomball on the ice for a while. Several tackled the “climbing wall” in the lodge—the 2-story stone fireplace.
A few of us got up before dawn to hike to an overlook nearby to see the sun rise over a frozen lake. Most of our group (I think just 3 of us passed) did the Polar Plunge our last night: Sweat in the sauna, then dash to the lake and climb down into the water through the hole in the ice!
Full of Sweet Fellowship
A couple times I was in the lodge looking around me at these beautiful women reading their Bibles, or talking softly with a friend, or reading a book. Some were painting, others playing a game together.
AC serves their meals family-style, so meals were a highlight, too. Besides the food being delicious, mealtimes were sweet because of the talking and laughing.
We spent a couple hours Saturday night worshiping and praying together. How precious and encouraging to hear the Spirit-led, heartfelt, mature prayers of these young ladies!
I’m used to that from being with them at church. But it can be even more meaningful when it’s outside our normal setting. That’s when you realize it’s just a part of life together.
That’s pretty cool…and amazing, really.
When Emilie, one of the young women going on the retreat, offered to help with the planning, I jumped at the chance.
At first it was just to get some details off my plate! But I was so impressed by her administration skills, I quickly realized I could hand over many of those details to her completely.
Not only was it fun and super easy working with Emilie, I’m sure more women came along because she was the one inviting rather than me!
More to Come…We Hope!
In the plans—more Active Outdoor Women retreats. This one wasn’t official…but we’d sure like to have more like it! And we’d like more older women to come along.
We’ll keep you posted!
You’ll like these, too…
- Build Memories through Outdoor Travel and Recreation
- How to Raise Our Girls to Love the Outdoors
- How to Plan an Epic Family Road Trip
Sharon is the founder and publisher of Active Outdoor Women. She loves getting outside in beautiful places to hike, paddle, camp, snowshoe, ski, ride—and encouraging others to come along! Besides maintaining AOW and her other website, Twin Cities Outdoors, Sharon writes and designs websites, newsletters, blogs, emails, books and other marketing tools for clients.