21 Oct The significance of social networks and friendships as we age
Posted at 02:12h
What can Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin teach us about friendship in later life?
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin have been friends for more than 40 years dating back to their first movie together in 1980 called “9 to 5”.
Recently these two long-time friends finished their final season of the Netflix show “Grace & Frankie,” a comedy about two senior women brought together when their husbands fall in love with one another.
While a comedy and a farce, the storyline is still a perfect example of how the power and strength of friendship, even one made later in life, can make all the difference in how we navigate pivotal twists and turns. To quote the Beatles, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
These two talented older ladies exemplify the power of friendship and demonstrate that successful aging means so much more than maintaining physical health. Of course, having your health is first and foremost, but that doesn’t mean much if you have outlived the people around you, which is why new friendships are vitally important as we age.
Aristotle said it first. He extolled the benefits of associating with those who “encourage moral virtue, complement one’s limitations, and provide cherished companionship.” He highlighted emotional and reciprocal aspects of friendship that are important.
Friends offer emotional and instrumental support; provide companionship through shared interests and life events, all of which add meaning and value to our existence.
Modern science is now confirming Aristotle’s ancient wisdom. Hundreds of studies prove that people over 60 don’t do well when living in social isolation. However, what are the positive health benefits of increasing your social network in later life?
For starters, when you dine with people, your digestion improves! When you exercise with people, you tend to show up in class or at the gym more often. And it turns out that simultaneously walking and talking with friends together improves brain health more than walking or talking alone.
That’s all easier said than done. In today’s world, most of our college friends are probably scattered across the country. On average, 39% of people between the ages of 65-74 are divorced. And if one does have adult children and grandchildren, they likely live across town or in another state, making it difficult to connect.
Although River’s Edge hasn’t been built yet, making friendships is already accessible as people who attend informational sessions exchange emails and numbers, and Founders Club members are starting to have social get-togethers on their own and sponsored by the community.
During recent focus groups, Founders Club members expressed a strong desire to build a community of peers who share their interests in lifelong learning, love of the arts and theater, a commitment to wellness and exercise, healthy eating, as well as philanthropy, and volunteerism. Living near people with common interests is desirable and aligns with our goal of building a vibrant, engaged community.
It’s also an excellent way for future River’s Edge residents to shape their community with people they enjoy spending time with. If you think about it, this is a rare opportunity. How often in life do any of us get to pick our future neighbors or live next door to one of their best friends?