Who needs friends anyway?
Is friendship really all it’s cracked up to be? asks the US novelist Richard Ford.
That’s a controversial start – the accepted line is that senior citizens must cultivate new friends and be socially active. Loneliness is a curse to be avoided in later life. Isn’t it?
For most people that is true. There are some personality types that thrive, or at least happily survive, with a minimum of human contact and no real mates. We’ll come back to that category later.
For most people, a circle of companions and relations is a basic requirement for human existence at any age,
It gets progressively more difficult of course, as we age and our existing mates shuffle off their mortal coil. Being active socially requires transport, money, decent clothes – and the effort to get off the sofa and out of the house.
“Friendships become even more important as we age,” said Chopik, assistant professor of psychology. “Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being. So it’s smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest.”
How to make new friends
Friendships have to be cultivated over time, but by increasing social interaction we improve our chances of creating new contacts – or at least nodding acquaintances.
There are a number of popular ways to find this interaction
- Explore past social circles, to resurrect and reignite friendships. Facebook is alive with possibilities to reconnect with old acquaintances, and make new ones.
- Use sites such as Stitch (the world’s largest companionship & activities community)
- Use technology to find other local networks – Google is your friend
- Volunteering for a local charity or community group
- Join a club or local group – the U3A have a national network
- Get to know the neighbours – an original concept, but they do live quite close and may be looking for the same thing!
Life in a small town
If you live in a small or rural community some of those social circles might not be available to you.
- Look for activities in the Community Newspaper
- Try the local Church or Pub
- Make small talk with casual acquaintances. This feels strange at first, but generally people love to talk.
- Get a dog – an amazing conversation starter with fellow dog owners
- Look for new experiences instead
Shock. Horror. Ditching friends in later life? Surely not … and yet, these years should be about pleasurable things and pleasant people. Dumping the grumpy old soul who never has a good word to say is possible. Perhaps desirable.
People change too – interests no longer align, conversations become stilted. Perhaps both of you long for relief – or maybe your friend persistently wants the pub or wine bar, when all you want to do is potter and slump by the fire.
Radical thought – it’s ok to cast off old friends and make new ones.
Which brings us to – that loner? The guy in the corner of the pub with his pint and crossword. Seniors are still humans, some people just prefer their own company and enforcing social jollification is just not for them.
So if a solitary life is for you – even seniors have the right to choose.
You don’t have to be lonely in old age – but you do need to make an effort not to be. The world is alive with possibilities for new friends, online and offline.
So the watchword is – carpe diem. Sieze the day!