Ageing and friends

F is for Friends

In her book ‘ Coping With Old Age’ Pat Blair writes ‘It is being loved, wanted and needed by others that often makes life worth living. Without the contact of other human beings, problems become larger, ailments assume greater proportions and there is no yardstick by which problems can be put into perspective.’ The trouble is there aren’t so many people around as you get older to whom you can relate. Some have died. You may have moved away from where you once lived. Moreover it is less easy to make new friends; you no longer have colleagues at work, you may have a less active social life, and now lack the advantage of that great forum of friendships – waiting for your children outside the school gates.

Old friends however, become especially valued and a common social language and history unites you. In recent years the internet has made it possible to contact people with whom you may have lost touch. Then there are clubs and societies to join in almost every community – where I live there are so many luncheon clubs run by local churches that you could dine out every week-day and meeting people becomes as important as the food you eat.

There is always a demand for volunteers. You can hardly move in our local hospital for squads of smiling older people waiting to wheel you to your ward, serve you at the café run by the Hospital Friends, or guide you to some obscure corner of the premises which otherwise you might never find. In the process of helping others, friendships can develop.

A special friendship is one that exists across the generations. Grandparents and grandchildren have a very precious affinity to be quietly celebrated and cherished and if you lack that privilege perhaps you can become an adopted ‘Uncle’ or ‘Aunty’. Children are intrigued by us– our wrinkles and creases and our stories of days gone by.

There are no encompassing rules about this. We are all different and some more shy than others. All of us perhaps find it difficult to ‘present’ ourselves to others as we get older – we are not sure what we have to offer in a relationship and fear the possibility of rejection. Making friendships can be hard work, but it may be harder still to be without them.