Series on Aging, Part Six: Preserving Friendships

Oct 13th, 2008 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

There are lots of books and studies and articles advising senior citizens how to keep their immune system healthy. Among the conclusions there is an insight that is particularly helpful to the aging population: Keep your friends!

To be sure, this, like any exercise helpful to body, mind and soul, takes work. It is more than sending an annual Christmas card or letter. I have a friend who, every year at birthday time, remembers to send a greeting card and calls on my birthday. We have known each other since First Grade. That is a true friend.

Obviously it is not likely or possible one will be able to keep all the friends gathered up, like moss on a rock, along life’s journey. However, selecting a few and finding the discipline for keeping in touch, and expecting occasional reciprocation along the way is not out of the realm of satisfying accomplishment.

If you start now, it will be more difficult to reestablish the link, but certainly not impossible. When moving back to Texas, my spouse decided to try to locate neighbors who were our dear friends in Omaha, Nebraska several years before. When we were able to identify their phone number, it was a celebratory moment. We resumed and have enjoyed visiting each other on numerous occasions. Incidentally they had moved to Texas and were no more than three hours away.

Another factor in sustaining friendships is frequent and regular contact. Email has enabled that. Frequent conversations are possible now through email, cell phones, at odd moments when you think about a friend you would just like to contact. The excuse of putting it off, getting to it later will block the joy of the spontaneous. Do it, if at all possible, now as it crosses your mind. If not, then make a note to do so at the first available moment.

Expect a return call. If no initiative is taken by the other party, it may not be worth exploring further. However, don’t judge that prematurely. Give the other party a chance. Perhaps, the timing wasn’t good, there were other legitimate agendas at work, and so on. Whatever, give it time, try again and if still there is no response, the seed has been planted.

Eventually one’s circle will grow larger. Maintaining contact will then be natural and unstructured. It will be done because it is motivated by mutual desire. It will happen because each of you will be on the other’s mind. Now, there is renewal and likely a lasting connection.

This approach does not take the place of developing new friends, which remains an important life goal, but recognizes that old and dear friends will simply supplement a positive emotional environment as you grow older. Casting off old friends is not an exercise like cleaning out your closet. If you discard something from your closet, you can likely replace it. Losing a friend is a lifetime and forever loss.



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