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Friendship over 50- Friends for Life?

friendship over 50 image Article by Jaki Scarcello

A supportive network of family and friends may have an impact on longevity according to new research just out from Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.(LA Times 9/13/10)

Friends are good for us as we age

Betty Friedan also quoted similar research findings in 1993 in her book “The Fountain of Age”
So the experts are telling us…friends are good for us as we age.

However these “golden friendships” may differ from the ones you had when you were younger.
Friendship issues was an unexpected topic,which came up in my interviews with vibrant women 50+ while researching for my last book. It took me by surprise when my interviewees identified that their friendship patterns had changed in two significant ways as they had aged.

First of all, women 50+ report that they may have more time but few friends to spend it with. In the preceding years they have had their heads down and focused on all the essential roles they have to play in life and they have failed to nurture the friendship role. This is a quantity issue.
This quote from a women’s blog may explain why, “Women give themselves away to functions, husbands, children, and work.”

I think there is a lot of truth to this. Women work very hard balancing multiple tasks for much of their adult lives. This predisposition to multi tasking and multi care giving has many positive consequences for the women themselves and for those around them but there are also negative consequences. The busy task jugglers are left with little or no time for themselves or for some of life’s basic, indulged comforts, like friendship.

Secondly, women 50+ may have been able to maintain friendships through the busy years but when they raise their heads at 50 and look around they find they are not satisfied with the sort of friendships they have maintained. This is a quality issue.

Women of 50+  lose their tolerance of superficial friendships

Women 50 + have lost their tolerance for superficial friendships or friendships which “must be maintained out of social responsibility. If friendships, which began earlier in life have not ripened into a deep connection they will often be set aside at this point. And here is the really good news ladies….as we age we are able to make these friendship changes without heart piercing guilt.

Women of 50+ often reconnect with friends from their past

So where do these new friendships come from? They often come from our past. I call these old friendships recycled into new friendships, retro relationships. Women 50 + will often reconnect with friends they had in school either as children or in university or at a first job. The internet and social networking makes such re connections much easier than they used to be. But what is the attraction to these people we have not seen in years?

“….as the pressure of adult roles eases, women feel a natural urge to spend time with people who knew them before they were consumed by those roles. To be known again as Sue, May, or Karen, not as CFO, Mrs. Smith, or even Mom”

Women over 50  have higher standards for friendship

The wise women I interviewed approached their search for new friendships with the same wisdom and experience they applied to other issues in their lives. “Now, just as we have earned the good taste to know cheap shoes from Italian-designed and great wine from boxed, we have higher standards for friendship as well.” Women 50+ are not in a rush to find the new friends. They know that these are important decisions and they make them with improved, or at least different, criteria than they would have when they were younger.

As women enter the age of gerotranscendence, the stage of human development which comes after 50 and which is a great open field of exploration, they want to be sure they have the appropriate companions for the journey. The more intimate camaraderie of new 50+ acquaintances or the revitalized friendships of youth may turn out to be the perfect support network for this next stage of life.

Introvert or extrovert we all need friends and friendship fills a place in our relationship network that no other person, not spouse or partner, sibling, child or parent is able to fill.

The nature of friendships continues to grow as we age

According to Dr Lars Tornstam, a Swedish sociologist, featured recently in the NY Times, “Our values and interests don’t remain static from…20 years old until the time we’re 45, so why …expect that sort of consistency in later decades.” The nature of our friendships continues to grow as we do and the changes which begin at 50 evolve as we age. An elderly woman may display a healthy need for “increased solitude, and for the company of only a few intimates…she isn’t deteriorating, necessarily- she’s evolving.”
Here once again is proof that life after 50 is a stage of human development which offers us growth and change in many aspects of our life.
If you are lucky enough to have some fantastic current friendships which have bolstered you along your way…keep them and cherish them. If you are seeking new friendships I hope these insights will help you to live long and nurtured in the circle of your friends.


Jaki Scarcello is author of Fifty & Fabulous - the Best Years of a Woman's Life and can be contacted via www.Fiftyfab.com

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  1. Denise

    March 18, 2011

    My mum who was a very wise woman, said to me boyfriends, husbands come and go but you’ll always need friends because they stay! So I have gathered many friends in all area’s of my life, school, work, yoga and I am still collecting new one’s at 54
    I couldn’t be without my friends, my husband and I separated after 32 years of marriage last year and my friends were my rock..

    • Leona

      August 25, 2012

      Hi Denise.
      Your Mum was so right. I am so happy for you that your friends were there when you needed them. Kind regards from a Brit living in Germany x

  2. Thelma Rusteberg

    January 29, 2012

    Great advise now just to find a friend

  3. Lin Kennedy

    September 7, 2012

    Very wise words indeed. I have a friend I’ve known for about the last 20 years. We used to go out for coffee, visit places, watch films at her place (she always had a bigger tv screen than me) etc. Then two and a half years ago she got together with a man and they moved in together. Then later when her father died they moved into his house which is directly opposite me. You would think that would be great, we would see each other a lot.

    Well, in the past two and a half years we have never gone out for a coffee, spent time together away from her man. I’ve hung on and hung on waiting for her to come to her senses and see she could still have a friend as well as a man. But nothing, she is so wrapped up in him that I’ve become invisible or at best a good neighbour rather than a best friend.

    I don’t know what triggered it but in the last few days I’ve come to realise she won’t change and rather it’s me that has to. I have to put our old friendship behind me and look at it fondly but remember it’s now in the past. I’m not waiting around any more, I’m off to find new friends!

  4. JOHN

    August 24, 2013

    looking for a friend to chat too

    • Janice

      May 7, 2014

      hi John, would like to chat with you,

  5. romanticlady

    April 9, 2014

    I am now looking for friends- at the age of 56 – I am lively, healthy, bubbly, witty, much younger than a normal 56 year old. Yet when I go to clubs and social groups they are all 80 plus (who think I will go over to hoover the carpet for them or take them to hospital) or people who have just come out of prison or with drug problems who can barely read and write or string a sentence together moanig about how they are hiding from debt collectors and cannot pay their rent. I get told I am too fussy.
    But I don’t want to be with just anyone, I would rather read a good book then. The whole idea is to be with someone I have things in common with. I don’t mind if the are a bit older or younger but if we have nothing in common it is a waste of time. I am a well educated lady who was always very hard working, set up a business from nothing and made a name for myself in my field. I have always been very responsible, so I am not going to get on with or like people who are too lazy to get a job. I want a true friend who can give as well as take and who cares about me as a person and enjoys my company. Not someone who wants me to do their shopping for them because someone else would charge them for that and it saves them money.

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