Aging and Friendship

“Books, like friends, should be few and well chosen.”  —  Charles Caleb Colton, a popular nineteenth century English cleric

old senile friendsIt is obvious to me, my previous post about moving and making friends past midlife hit some sort of nerve with my readers. I so enjoyed the personal comments made by over 20+ readers! Some have studied this phenomenon throughout their lives and concluded it may have to do with different parts of the country and different sizes of town and cities.

So I decided to do a little research into this subject. I wanted to understand why two of my closest friends for decades dropped me suddenly soon after I turned 50, and why only one friend from my previous life in the Fort Collins area (for 20 years!), still keeps in close contact now.

The most insightful article I found was: “Aging and 3 Kinds of Friendship” by Brent Green. Mr. Green tells us that there are three kinds of friendships we may experience as we proceed through life, convenience, cosmetic and interdependent. A different article defined these loosely as takers, givers, and power sharers.

We all have had convenience friends, ones you hang out with because you share a work place, or kids in the same grades, or the same workout gym. These relationships can be very unequal with one person “helping” the other a lot. They can be draining!

Cosmetic friendships can also be draining because the person who supposedly likes you, wants something for it. Like work friends who think your relationship may help their career, these “friends” can vaporize quite quickly when you have nothing more to give to them.

The best kind of friends are those who are interdependent on each other. They don’t lean heavily, but they are there for you and accept you exactly the way you are. To quote Mr. Green:

“Both parties contribute and receive. Both are available to share the joys of closeness and help shoulder the burdens that come with aging. They give and take. They are committed to mutual growth and positive adaptation along the uncharted journey through life…They include the extraordinary friends we can count on when we become distraught or disillusioned. They are people who lift our spirits and in return welcome our nurturing care during their tough times.”

If you have any friends like these, count yourself very lucky!

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13 thoughts on “Aging and Friendship

  1. I really like the definitions of the three types of friends. Fortunately, at the passage of life I’m in now, I can happily say that most of my friends are interdependent/power sharers. Since I live in the same community I grew up in, I have the luxury of having a lot of friends that I’ve known for many, many years.

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  2. You go girl! I have so not lived in one community my whole life, so I have challenges in the friend department, but things are starting to look up! We just got invited to a Super Bowl Party AND on a trip to the hot springs near here! Can’t wait!

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  3. As an introvert, I don’t make friends readily. Furthermore, since I don’t want people around much, i don’t need a lot of friends. I have casual friends and acquaintances that I see now and then. I don’t have close friends that I spend a lot if time with.
    I find these definitions to be somewhat off the mark. Who needs “friends” who are takers, or “draining” I would just call them people I know.

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  4. The best friendship, in my opinion, is between a husband and wife when they actually ARE best friends. Then those who have lived in their hometown or maybe a city they moved to when first married or out of college, are places good lasting friendships can form. But as we age and move, it does get harder. As more of an extrovert, I really enjoy people even “light” friendships just to bounce off ideas and have interesting conversations. They don’t have to be real deep and lasting. I guess there are degrees. I also value a few close lasting friendships, of which I have one. Sometimes I think the closer friendships always have the potential of pain, as I’ve lost two since my husband died, due to complicated but petty reasons.

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  5. I feel fortunate to have many casual friends and a few who would do anything for me, and I feel the same about them. Sometimes a friendship will start slowly and grow over the years. I have lived in my newest home town for eight years now and cherish the friends I’ve made. I am a fan of Facebook to visit my old friends in Colorado. 🙂

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  6. Yes, caring deeply for others, either people or pets, can/will end up hurting when they are gone. That’s a tough reality we all must face in this lifetime. As I deal with my parents in their mid-to-late 80s and new friends in their 60s, I realize they may leave me sooner rather than later, but I will love them just the same while they are here!

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  7. My mother always said, “If you have one true friend, consider yourself lucky!” Mom was right. Most of the so-called “friends” in our lives are superficial. It’s the few who are there in times of sorrow and difficulty who really count.

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  8. This was so helpful. I moved 2 and 1/2 years ago from Des Moines where we had lived for 17 years. I had a close circle of friends–there were 10 of us. But after I left, I didn’t hear from some of them and when I went back to visit, they simply didn’t seem that invested in my life. I ponder it a lot. I hear from them rarely. BUT, the friends I made in Chicago for the first 50 years of my life, they are still going strong. I think Mr. Green is on to something. Thanks.

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  9. I had not seen this article, so thanks for the link. I realized on retiring that many of my connections were based on proximity…his convenience bucket. In fact 90% of people I would have called friends were in that camp. And without the work connection, few of those relationships have survived. I have intentionally worked on building stronger friendships with 2-3 women I know outside of my old work place. I worry a lot about moving – something we are considering in retirement. Creating interdependent friendships is very hard work!

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  10. Thank you for reading and commenting Pat. We have lived in this new area for a year and a half and friends are slowly warming up to us. What we are finding is that we are making different kinds of friends than we had in Fort Collins, and that’s a good thing. Most of them are younger and that’s nice. We went to the first Super Bowl Party we’ve ever been to as a couple on Sunday, and it was really fun. We are beginning to see that there is a different lifestyle here in rural Colorado and it does take some getting used to, but we like it. You must keep in mind I am a very impatient person. Mike is rolling with the punches much better than me!

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  11. Best Friends – It’s not a label, it’s a promise. This quote is on my desk, and upon reading this, and the comments, it makes me think about the importance of the intentionality of both cultivating new friendships and keeping existing ones. I think on reflection, I’d be hard pressed to move away from here, even with the winter cold. I never thought before about it being difficult to have friendships! Thanks for giving me a healthy dose of empathy. In the meantime, I’m headed off for a martini lunch with a gal who has been my friend for over 40 years!

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