Valentine’s Day—and I wish you a happy one—over the years has been “stretched” conceptually to celebrate not just lovers, but relationships of all sorts as well. For little ones, Valentines are all about friendship. And that is the connection with today’s post. Fair warning—it may give you a bit of a knot in your gut at first. Life, after all, is not all hearts and flowers.
About two decades ago, I ran into a former colleague, a psychologist a few years my senior. During our catch-up conversation, he told me that he and his wife had moved from their rural home into a planned suburban community. They had done this not only to downsize, but also in a conscious effort to broaden their circle of friends. “You need to keep making new friends at this age, to help make up for the losses,” he said.
It was shocking to hear that at the time, but not long after that conversation, two of my husband’s treasured friends passed. I have since lost a few myself. Years later, my former colleague’s insight still motivates me to actively seek new friends. I think this is a very critical piece to a fulfilling retirement. I also believe that some of those new friends, perhaps even many, should be younger.
Even if you live in one of the ubiquitous, super friendly 55+ communities, you still need to get out and about among younger people. You can’t stop growing in your retirement life any more than you could in your professional life.
Think about this: On the job, you were surrounded on a daily basis by a rich mix of colleagues—all ages, backgrounds, education levels, interests, and skills. Even if you’re a card-carrying introvert, you probably had a few work friends—people with whom you shared conversation about family or milestones or books or football (yes, women do that, too). And sometimes, you probably enjoyed the insights of a 25-year-old newbie just as much as those of your contemporaries. Why shouldn’t your #retired life mirror that rich mix of ages, backgrounds, education levels, interests, and skills you had in your work life?Much of the fun we’ve had since moving to our present neighborhood has been with our younger friends and their families.
My advice: don’t get stuck in the “age-appropriate” trap. Get out there and make some younger friends. You will benefit from their perspective and experience, as they will from yours.
Just to demonstrate that I try to practice what I preach, today I am having lunch with a new friend, who happens to be younger. We met through a mutual interest, and a mutual acquaintance, via Facebook. Next month I have a lunch date with three other girlfriends, who, though closer to me in age and experience, are all younger. Hubby and I both love hanging out with the “kids”—big and little—in our neighborhood. To be clear, this is not the same experience as sitting down to dinner with friends you’ve known almost all of your life, who are imbedded in your memory bank just as if they were siblings. There is no substitute for the friends you’ve known for years, or even forever, with whom you’ve shared the rough spots as well as the joys of your lifetime. It isn’t meant to be. As the old Girl Scout song goes…
Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.
Photo: A crimson sunflower at Chanticleer Gardens in Wayne PA. Click on the name to learn more. If you’re anywhere near, do spend time there. Movielovers’ alert: Chanticleer is just down the road from the estate where Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Gary Grant shot “The Philadelphia Story”.