“Your truest friends are the ones who will stand by you in your darkest moments–because they’re willing to brave the shadows with you–and in your greatest moments–because they’re not afraid to let you shine.” ― Nicole Yatsonsky
Having a friendship is one of the keys to graceful and successful aging.
Aging often brings a loss of close friendships. Unfortunately, the older we get, the more likely we are to lose our friends through death or through disease that has forced them into assisted living or nursing homes. It is also probable that we will lose our husbands. And some would consider him as their best friend. According to the Centers for Disease Control, life expectancy for men living at age 65 in 2015 was an additional 18 years and for women 20.6 years. That means women who were 65 in 2015 can expect to live on the average until they are 85.6 years old. For those still living at age 75, men could expect to live another 11.2 years, while women might expect an additional 13 years.
In married couples, according to the Census Bureau, more men die before their wives than vice versa, leaving their wives alone for the first time in many years and facing having to do a lot of things they were not accustomed to. This percentage of men dying earlier increases as the couple ages.
If their widows were able to maintain close friendships with other women throughout their marriage, they no doubt will find them to be particularly rewarding at this time in their lives. They will also want to continue to make new relationships.
If they never learned the value of friendship, were reluctant to make friends, or if they maintained relationships only with family members or their husbands, they might discover loneliness and suffer depression. They may long for friendship.
This is not to say that single women do not experience problems also. Many lose their friends by death. Many retire and realize they should have made more time for friends. And many discover, perhaps for the first time, what it would have meant to have more friends in their lives. It is not too late ladies!
So, why all of this bother about making new friendships?
It’s easy to make excuses about not wanting to make the effort. “I’m not going to be around for long.” “I don’t know how to make friends.” “Who is going to want to be my friend. I am boring to be around.” Trust me, there are some very good reasons why you want to have friendships with other women.
Interestingly, studies have gathered considerable information about the importance of having friends. One such study did a sweeping review of data from over 308,000 people involved in 148 research studies. The authors’ conclusions revealed a 50% improvement in their chances for surviving longer for those who maintained friendships.
A second study revealed that older people with close friendships actually live longer, and the more friendships they had, the longer they lived. Surprisingly, having relationships with their children or other relatives did not offer the same reward. This work was accomplished in Australia with more than 1400 participants over 70 who were followed for seven years.
True happiness arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self, and in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.Joseph Addison
Back to the true value of friendship in successful aging.
Isn’t the above information something we just kind of knew all along? It is like a lot of other stuff that happens in life. It was just waiting to be supported by science!
Let’s attempt to define what true friendship means to us. To some, it means having someone to share with, someone who will listen without being judgmental. Additionally, the value of having a friendship is giving and receiving love at a different level, feeling that euphoria that comes with special relationships. It is being there when you are needed, as well as accepting needed help. It is having someone to catch a movie with.
True friendship has few expectations. Going back to Kennedy’s days and his “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,” it is clear that he was reminding Americans that our friendships result from our being willing to go out of our way for others and our freedoms came at a cost of many friendships. This country would not have moved as far as it has without the early settlers and those that followed helping each other out.
And so it is in other countries. Friendship is something we can see as an opportunity to do something for someone without having to be on the receiving end.
I will be writing other articles on the value of friendships and how we benefit from forming the right kinds of friendships.
There are all kinds of healthy ways to look at friendships. Please share yours in the comments section below. Also, I would like to hear what your opinions are on things I omitted from this article. Thanks and be well!