Cropped shot of a group of seniors having tea in their retirement home

Friendship: The Secret to Ageing Well

July 30, 2021, is the International Day of Friendship — a day on which to acknowledge and celebrate our friends, particularly those whose companionship, care and support have sustained us throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves. — Edna Buchanan

While there’s truth in this quote, think about the pecking order of your relationships. Where do your friends sit in the hierarchy?

There’s no right or wrong answer, of course. Our connection with certain friends — the bond and depth of feeling we share — may position them at the top of the pile alongside family, but reality often dictates otherwise.

As life accelerates and responsibilities multiply, our time and energy become scarce resources. We’re forced to prioritise, and this usually means giving the best of ourselves to family and work — where our primary obligations lie.

Friendship’s voluntary nature makes it vulnerable to life’s whims in a way that other relationships aren’t. We can take our friends for granted, and when something has to give, it’s often friendships that fall by the wayside.

But we shouldn’t neglect them entirely.

Because as we age, the responsibilities, obligations and day-to-day tasks that once occupied our time begin to taper. Marriages break down, children leave home, loved ones die, and we lose contact with work colleagues after retirement.

We find ourselves with more of that most precious commodity, time, yet fewer people to share it with. And that’s when we look to friends to fill the void.

Friendship is thicker than water

While the physical and mental health benefits of friendship are well documented, many of us still assume that strong family ties have a greater influence on wellbeing in old age.

But an April 2017 study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in the U.S. disproved this assumption. The study, designed by Michigan State University psychology professor William J. Chopik, found that as we age, it’s friendship that’s thicker than water.

Whereas the positive impact of solid family relationships remains constant throughout our lives, the importance of friendship increases from the age of 65 onward. Strong social bonds boost happiness and wellbeing; on the other hand, fractured or strained friendships increase the likelihood of chronic health problems.

So, it’s in our best interests to keep our friendships in mint condition. This means cultivating and nurturing them with intention and a consistent, reliable investment of time and effort.

When we’re young, this is easy. However, physical limitations and reduced mobility can make socialising, particularly outside the home, challenging for the elderly.

Fortunately, though, when it comes to friendship, quality is more important than quantity.

By the time we join the seniors’ ranks, we know what we want in a friend — someone to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy — and we’re willing to invest more in a chosen few.

It takes a long time to grow an old friend. – John Leonard

Communication and mutual understanding are key. Of course, good friends don’t need to communicate often or share intricate and intimate details, but they do need to communicate in a similar way. And these days, there are more ways to communicate with our friends than ever before.

So, take the initiative and extend your hand of friendship today.

  • Send a letter, card or email to a friend expressing your appreciation for their friendship
  • Pick up the phone and call a friend to let them know you care
  • If you’re tech-savvy, message them via Facebook or Facetime them
  • Bake a cake or pick some flowers from your garden to give to a friend
  • Chat to your neighbour over the fence
  • Arrange to meet your friend for a cup of tea or a bite to eat
  • Call a radio station and dedicate a special song to your friend

And remember:

True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it be lost. – Charles Caleb Colton

Did you know:

  • SereneCare can arrange transportation for you to and from social gatherings, whether at a café, shopping centre, cinema, theatre, community centre or private residence. Our care workers can also accompany you to these gatherings and assist you if required.
  • If you have a Home Care Package with SereneCare, the cost of transportation and escort can be met from your Package funds.
  • And suppose distance separates you from family and close friends. In that case, your Home Care Package with SereneCare can fund the purchase of an iPad or similar device to help you stay in touch with your loved ones.

So, call or email SereneCare to discover how we can support your social connections and engagement, helping you to age well.

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