I heard a brief report yesterday about aging. Of course no matter what I’m doing in the house, if the subject of aging comes up I wander into the living room to listen closely! The report said that one of the key factors in aging well is to continue old friendships and cultivate new ones. Women tend to be better at this endeavor than men. As their parents, siblings, spouses, and even children die, many men tend to isolate themselves until they are functioning in a social black hole. Women reach out to family and friends and create new social networks while still maintaining the old ones.
I haven’t always been a good friend, or had very many friends. I’ve always been somewhat reclusive and solitary, but in the last ten years I’ve begun to reach out to more women and enjoy their company more and more. I suppose what set me apart in my younger years were my “male tendencies”. Having grown up in a predominantly male household and engaged in a lot of male activities (playing Army in a ditch, going hunting, watching Westerns), I felt awkward and unsure of myself around other young women. I hated shopping, wasn’t good at small talk, and didn’t follow fashion trends. Frankly, I didn’t care about a lot of the things that other young girls cared about. I wanted to read a good book, not go to a pep rally.
However, as I’ve grown and matured I’ve found women of like minds who care about books and children and gardens, and serving God with faith and love. I’ve learned to appreciate those who are different from me and have wonderful traits and talents that I don’t possess. I’ve even come to value a few friends who love to shop and wear stylish clothes and get their hair done! J I finally understand that those activities are just a small portion of who they are and what they believe in. I grow as a person when I embrace the friendships of people who are not mirror images of me!
I also did something this year that I would never have done ten years ago. I told a friend to just “stop by when you get a chance”. There was a time when I never, never wanted anyone in my house unless I had been cleaning for two days!! I was so self-conscious about everything. I was so afraid that other women would be critical of my lack of housekeeping skills or see that I didn’t know the first thing about decorating or simply know that I lived in an old house. It was all about me. Now I ask others to visit because I want to see them. Attitude is everything.
Of course the internet and sites like Facebook have made friendships even easier and more rewarding. I love keeping up with old high school friends or just finding out what a friend on the other side of the county is doing today. We are all much too busy, but manage to connect early in the morning or late at night. And I think that as we age and are physically unable to get out and about, sites like FB will provide a vital link to the rest of the world. I remember how my Grandmother mourned the passing of her friends. If I remember correctly, she was the last one of her Sunday school class to die. I think she missed those women more than some of her family members. But the key problem with her lifestyle was that she was physically unable to make new friends. She was isolated by her condition and surroundings, until her involvement with others was limited to those who cared for her and visited her in the nursing home. I don’t think many women in my generation will face that, at least not if we keep our laptops next to the bed!
So I encourage you to reach out to family and friends and continue to keep active socially. I received a letter, yes a real letter, from a cousin yesterday and it made me happy all day long. We need those connections, whether by phone or email or Facebook or cards and letters. We need to know that we are part of a village that cares. It may not keep us young, but it will make growing old a whole lot more enjoyable. I hope to be around for another thirty years! That’s far too long to be lonely.
Be a friend. Connect with one of your friends today.