Q. I am 75 years old and continue to work full time at my job. My husband’s social life and mine are intertwined. If he goes before me, will I have any friends? Two of my closest friends just passed away. Looking at the possibilities of the future, I should probably be intentionally nurturing a few younger friends now. How do you go about it? Many thanks. BD
Thank you for asking a complicated and important question. Here are some facts.
Today we have more opportunities to develop intergenerational relationships and friendships. Corresponding an AARP survey, Almost four out of ten adults have a close friend who is at least 15 years older or younger than them. Friendships are mostly formed at work (26%), then in the neighborhood (12%), in church or temple (11%) or through mutual friends (10%). And keep those friendships. The survey found that nearly half of close intergenerational friendships have lasted at least 10 years, and one in five has lasted more than two decades.
Such friendships exist equally between men and women. However, Boomers and Gen Xers are more likely to have friends from another generation than Millennials. Respondents to the AARP survey indicated that these generational cohorts value having friends of different ages because of the different life perspectives they offer. Younger adults in particular stated that they often take inspiration from their older friends and see them as role models.
Friendships are organic. They develop in a variety of places and circumstances. Based on my own experience, I am fortunate to have two very good friends who are about 15 years younger than me. They just happened; I wasn’t looking for her. Both grew out of my leadership role at a non-profit organization. One succeeded me as President; the other was a personnel director. Our common mission has brought us together.
As we worked side by side, we got to know, respect and like each other. We started celebrating holidays together and knew each other’s children. Each of these friendships has brought a new and valuable dimension to my life. Since I’ve been a widow for 19 years, these relationships have become even more important.
Now let’s dig a little deeper into what “younger” means. At 76 you belong to the top of the boomer generation. A younger friend might be 60 years old, which is of the same generation, albeit ultimately. We know that baby boomers generally share some core values, such as: E.g. appreciation of equal rights and opportunities, personal growth, desire to make a difference, optimism and more. These values can be the basis for establishing new connections. In contrast, having friends from another generation can be the appeal.
This brings us to the second word that needs a little more scrutiny. And that is the term “friendship”. The question is, “What do you look for in friendships in late life?” Here is a perspective from a chapter I wrote about friendships for the book Getting Good at Getting Older by the late Richard Siegel and Rabbi Laura Geller (Behrman House, 2019). contributed. Maimonides, the 12th-century philosopher and physician, described three types of friendship. “One that is mutually beneficial, one that involves joy and trust, and one in which everyone feels responsible for one another.” We can think of these descriptors in terms of questions. Are we looking for mutual benefit, joy and trust or mutual responsibility – or all together?
An October 1, 2022 New York Times article entitled “How to Make and Keep Friends in Adulthood” focused on a conversation with Marisa Franco, author of Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make – and Keep – Friends (GP Putnam’s Sons, 2022). As a psychologist studying friendships, particularly in adulthood, Franco offers some suggestions. Assume strangers will like you; mindset counts. With this assumption, according to Franco, one becomes warmer, friendlier and more open. She suggests joining something that meets regularly. This can be attending a book group, attending church services, doing regular volunteer work, or joining a hiking or hiking group. She notes that we like people better when they are familiar to us. So should we Let friends know we appreciate them; Friends want to feel important. Simply texting a friend can make more sense than we think.
One last thought. That is make time in a busy professional and social life to explore new places that may lead to new connections and ultimately new friends.
BD, kudos to you for thinking proactively about the possibility of being single in later life and recognizing the importance of friendships. Stay healthy and know that kindness is everything.
Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on aging and the new retirement with academic, entrepreneurial and community service experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Helendenn@gmail.com. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her at facebook.com/SuccessfulAgingCommunity
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/09/why-multigenerational-friendships-are-beneficial-as-we-age/ Why intergenerational friendships are beneficial in old age – Orange County Register