Who will be around as you age gracefully (or disgracefully) and shift your priorities?
There’s really nothing like a friendship circle of likeminded souls to make you feel invincible and courageous - to egg you on to try new experiences and finally spring you off that sofa.
Friends are there to celebrate and commiserate, supporting each other. Consider your friendship circle as comrades in the trenches of the ageing frontline.
Throughout life, it often seems there’s no shortage of friendship groups to make demands on your time. There’s work mates, parents from your children’s schools, family friends, your own school friends and the neighbourhood gang. However downsizing often means starting fresh and getting the hang of reaching out to new people. It’s important to do that.
A Friendship Circle Not Only Enriches Life But May Extend It
Feeling lonely is actually bad for health and longevity. According to a recent British study on loneliness, which surveyed over 300,000 people, being friendless is associated with a 50% increase in mortality from any cause. This makes it comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and more dangerous than obesity.
According to Dr Antastasia Hronis, a clinical psychologist at Sydney’s University of Technology and founder of the Australian Institute for Human Wellness, the statistics say it all, especially in this rocky time for the world. Before Covid, around a third of us reported feeling at least one episode of loneliness with 54% of Australians reporting greater loneliness after the pandemic started.
Over 50s have been among the hardest hit with family often staying away, as they’re mindful of passing on the virus to those who are more susceptible to it. Unfortunately though, there’s no vaccine to combat loneliness.
It’s Inevitable To Shed Friends In Later Life.
Every stage of life brings it own challenges. For Baby Boomers, it’s finally discovering some leisure time to enjoy but then many friends have drifted away. Blame it on divorce, fickle behaviour, relocation, illness and death.
I once envisioned spending time in France with my best friend, Sue, who had a holiday home there. We’d sit side-by-side on sun lounges at our favourite beach club, constantly pestering waiters for iced peach tea, chilled towels and umbrella readjustments. We’d critique red carpet looks from the local trash mags and cast a weathered eye on other beach goers with an hilarious running commentary.
Unfortunately Sue suddenly became ill one year and five months later, this beautiful woman who had so much vitality passed away. Three more of my closest, most exuberant friends also died around the same time. I miss them all desperately - but life goes on.
Finding Your Passion And Sharing It
One of the best ways of making new friends is to join a group that interests you. This may include a walking group, a book club, exercise and dance classes or even a community gardening group. If you love films, buy tickets for a film festival where there’s camaraderie among festival devotees. It all comes down to discovering what you love the most and that’s where you’ll find others who share your interests. And it’s never too late to learn something new - languages, computer skills, yoga and meditation or even Mongolian cooking.
Make Friends As You Give Back
Charities need all the help that they can get right now and you may meet some lovely, like-minded people as fellow volunteers. Helping out has plenty of other benefits too, according to psychologists. Those feel good emotions may result in lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, less depression, lower stress, a longer life and greater happiness. (In short, this counters all the health issues for being lonely).
Build Friendships In Just 10 Minutes A Day.
According to Dr Hronis of UTS, building on friendships just takes 10 minutes a day. Turn acquaintances into buddies by regularly tapping them on social media or checking in with a quick phone call.
Many of us fear rejection but if you take it slowly and build a rapport, friendship comes more easily. It’s also about putting down your phone when you catch up, being present and really listening to what the other person has to say. As my wise mother, Georgina, once put it: To have a friend you have to be a friend especially when many of us feel increasingly invisible as we age.
As for me, well I’ve decided that if I can’t hang out with my bestie, Sue, I can still be adventurous. Right now I’m saving up to spend time in Greece where I hope to join the mostly uninhibited Aussies dancing on tables at sunset at the Nammos Beach Club in Mykonos. Should you care to join me, you’re very welcome.