Count your age by friends, not years.
~ John Lennon
Walking with Friends
This month, I open the blog with my shadow photo “Friends” to introduce the theme of friendship in later life.
“Walk and Talk” colours my life. I love to take a walk with a friend down a wooded path or along a gravel country road. We listen and talk in turns as our feet climb hills, track trail blazes, and cross wooden bridges. Our eyes take in the rolling landscape, sudden views of sky or cliffs, details of trees, plants, flowers, and birds.
With our gaze steady on course, talk flows like ocean waves and easy pauses bracket changes in topic.
Friends: Keep the Old and Make New Ones
Friends are good for our health and our longevity.
At any stage in life, we need one or two confidantes – those you can call in the the middle of the night. These close relationships play an even more central role when we are older.
A healthy social portfolio includes acquaintances, friends, and close relationships. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Aging recently showed that people with many friends outlive those with few friends. Close relationships beyond family help us live longer and with less disability.
Writing together is a special way for friendship to develop. Ruth Ray (2000) interviewed and observed members of writing groups. She pointed out that the ‘presentation and negotiation’ of life stories in writing groups initiates change and personal growth and that through writing and discussing we begin to articulate what life means, both individually and collectively. She learned that a primary reason for older adults to join writing groups is to be listened to and heard on their own terms.
For more on writing groups, see:
Papky (2011) in our special e-journal issue on writing as a spiritual practice
Papky (2006) in our book series
Community Engagement for Writers
Friendships grow within book groups and writing groups. We language lovers can encourage older adults to join such groups or bring a friend to our group, or start up a group.
We can also use books and writing as a resource when we visit frail or ill friends or acquaintances. These activities can deepen a visit and help isolated individuals to find meaning.
Make a list of 5 old friends from far away with whom you would like to connect. Choose one name and write a letter including shared memories and hopes. Send this letter as an email or with a greeting card by ‘snail’ mail. If you have lost contact, ask mutual friends who may have stayed in touch or use the search features on the Internet to track down an address.
Choose another name and repeat.
Old Friends by Tracy Kidder
Old Friends – among my favourite books – shows the making of a friendship between two old men stuck as roommates in a nursing home. Initially, Lou and Joe are divided by contrasting backgrounds and personalities and by irritating behaviours. Over time, however, their friendship develops around shared values and an interest in others — staff and residents.
How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick
This book, by Cornelia Dean, was recommended by a reader – Grace of Hamilton.
Supporting friends in times of serious trouble, like during an illness, can be difficult. This book, like the earlier reviewed Etiquette of Illness, provides useful advice for both the friend ready to help and the friend who can ease the way for friends who wish to help.
Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.
~ Francis Bacon
To live all the days of our lives means to keep our hearts alive, to deepen compassion, add to our friendships, retain a buoyant enthusiasm, grow more sensitive to the beauty of the world and to the wonder and the miracle of being a part of it.
~ Rabbi Bernard Baskin
Wishing you happy befriending,
I bid you adieu until next time,