Friendship and Aging
All of us have had friends throughout our life. As we get older we may have lost touch with some of them due to moving, family changes, divorce, or other circumstances. But according to a study conducted by Michigan State University professor William Chopik, friendships are more important after 65 than when you were younger. I found this most interesting, but upon reflection, it makes sense and is good to know if you are in this age group.
Friends at this age perform important functions, such as a sounding board, a reflective voice, personal coaching and someone to ask about that latest pain you just experienced. Additionally, according to the study, if relationships with your friends becomes strained at this age, it may cause chronic illnesses or other physical problems for yourself. So as the author points out, “Friendship quality often predicts health more so than the quality of other relationships.” To emphasize this point, the study further noted that while family is always important, the importance of family remained about the same for age 65 and above from the earlier years, as opposed to friends, who grow in importance.
But there is also a dilemma with this age group. As you age, you tend to socialize with fewer people. This is again due to the factors previously mentioned, but people also tend to focus on what they value most. And with friendships, that will tend to be those valued few with whom you feel most comfortable, possibly have known the longest, or have common interests.
But making new friends as you age, just as you did previously in your life, is important to your growth, your well-being, and your social life. In your educational, child rearing and working years, you constantly interfaced with others since it was part of the fabric. You met, and probably kept, friendships from all of those eras. There will be, as mentioned, a treasured few, but distance and demands may strain the relationships. Therefore, while it is important to maintain those special friendships, it is also important to find new ones, just as you have previously.
Finding new friends as you age is some work, but not as difficult as it may first appear. But YOU have to do the knocking. You can meet new friends at volunteer groups, since you automatically have a common interest, faith communities, Meet Up groups you can discover through social media, gym classes or just searching the web for organizations or groups with whom you have a common interest. Find out when the next meeting is, or call to obtain more information. As you sort through which group, organization, activity, gym class or book group you would like to join, decide to become involved, meet new people and develop new friendships. As the study points out, they will be most beneficial to you and will help you physically and mentally as you get older, and will be a source of continued vitality.