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As children, a lot of us learned the nursery song that beings, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.” The older we get, the truer this message becomes.
Old friends get older, and while sometimes they drift away, or sometimes leave in anger (or we do), our old friends are our best links to our past at a period when our past is increasingly becoming the largest portion of our life. The best of our old friends are gold indeed, and if anything they only gain in luster. Yet as they age, and we age, we may need to make more effort to hang onto them, and to reconnect with some that we have misplaced.
Sadly, though, part of aging is losing old friends to illness and death. They cannot, of course, quite be replaced, but our ability to continue to make new friends, no matter how old we get, can end up being central to whether we age happily in the company of others, or bitter and alone.
Friendship relates to other areas of Love:
- The essential virtues, because friendship is not just about being in the same place at the same time with someone, but genuinely caring about them. And because friendships call for the same underlying virtues as intimate and family relationships.
- Intimate relationships, because how we relate to our friends is deeply affected by the presence or absence of an intimate partner – of our own, or of our friend’s.
- Family, because in the best of cases, family members are among our best friends. And because close family and close friends should be able to mix comfortably.
- Caregiving, because sometimes friends even more than family come through when someone is disabled.
Friendship relates to other areas besides Love:
- Spirit, because your beliefs about the importance of others should help guide your treatment of friends. And because friends can strengthen or undermine your commitment to your beliefs.
- Purpose, because your friends may encourage and support your purposeful activities; and because engaging in such activities is a great way to make new friends.
- Avocation, because spending time with friends should probably be among your most rewarding avocations – all the more so if your friends share your interests in activities other than socializing. And because, as with Purpose, pursuit of avocations can lead to new friendships.
- Security, because your oldest and best friends might be there to help you some day – or you might be there to help them.
- Health, because the activities you pursue with friends – including eating and drinking, physical activity, and possibly others – can have either a positive or a negative effect on your health. And because your ability to stay physically healthy and mentally sharp will affect your ability to maintain friendships in a rewarding fashion.
Friendship Sub-Topics and Resources
- Free resources:
- “5 Ways to Nurture Friendships” by Cherie Burbach at About.com offers simple but useful tips on keeping your friendships vibrant (rating = A-).
- If you have lost track of an old friend and want to reconnect, the first problem is to locate the person. You can find a good deal of advice on this topic at “How to Find an Old Friend” on WikiHow (rating = A).
- What if a friend wants to borrow money from you (or vice versa)? Such loans can be a risk to the friendship, as well as a risk to the lender’s money. If this situation comes up, you might first take a look at “Why You Should NOT Lend Money To Friends and Family” by Casey Slide on the Money Crashers website (rating = A-). If you decide to make such an arrangement anyway, follow the “Tips on Lending Money to Family and Friends” from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, to protect everyone’s interests, and perhaps save the friendship itself (rating = A).
- “Golden Girls 2.0: Shared Housing as a Retirement Strategy,” from TenantsTogether.org, addresses the benefits of living with old friends as we age – an arrangement that seems to work especially well for women, though it could work for men, or a group of men and women. In the second half of life we are presumably less naïve about roommate situations than young people are, but it still doesn’t hurt to have a checklist of things to understand and settle in advance, so take a look at “The Talk All Roommates Must Have,” by Courtney Ronan at Move.com (rating = A-).
- For various reasons, some people choose to live without friends. “How to Cope Without Friends,” on WikiHow, addresses ways to do this in a constructive fashion – one that will be as healthy as possible for you, and that will not alienate other people (rating = A-).
- Other resources:
- Friendshifts: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives, by Jan Yager, discusses the importance of friendship and, drawing on her own research, suggests that shared values are ultimately more important than shared interests in keeping friendships alive as we change and our friends change over the course of a lifetime (rating = A).
- The Friendship Factor: How to Get Closer to the People You Care For, by Alan Loy McGinnis, offers many ideas (and examples) of how to keep a friendship close – but not too close – and how to deal with the inevitable rough spots (rating = A).
- For women: The Fabric of Friendship: Celebrating the Joys, Mending the Tears in Women's Relationships, by Joy Carol (rating = A).
- For men and women: We're Just Good Friends: Women and Men in Nonromantic Relationships, by Kathy Werking, is a somewhat scholarly but nonetheless useful look at non-romantic male/female friendships (rating = A-).
- For men: The Company You Keep: The Transforming Power of Male Friendship, by David C. Bentall (rating = A-).
- The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community, by Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow, discusses the benefits and how-to’s of sharing anything from rides to housing (rating = A). And before you start a shared living arrangement, consider consulting (or having your prospective housemate read) Rules for Roommates: The Ultimate Guide to Reclaiming Your Space and Your Sanity, by Mary Lou Podlasiak (rating = A-).
- See also:
- Free resources:
- “Handling Friendship Problems,” on WikiHow, links you to roughly 100 articles on dealing with friends in all kinds of situations (rating = A+). To try to retrieve a lost friendship: “How to Reconcile a Broken Friendship,” by Anna-Sofie Hickson on LiveStrong.com (rating = A-).
- “6 Types of Toxic Friends and How You Can Deal with Them,” excerpted from the Jan Yager book listed under “Other resources,” below, may not tell you everything you should know, but it’s a good start (rating = A).
- Revenge is an option, but almost always a bad one. See the article on “Revenge,” from EmotionalCompetency.com, for ways to understand that impulse and fight it off (rating = A).
- “Friendship and Money: Minimizing Losses”, by Irene S. Levine for HuffingtonPost, and “Ticklish Money Problems with Friends” on CNN.com, each deal with a few problem areas that arise between friends, but only scratch the surface. So does the 10-question “Friends and Money” quiz by Laura Shanahan on Bankrate.com. But they at least might generate some ideas on these subjects, if they pertain to you (rating = A-).
- Other resources:
- When Friendship Hurts: How to Deal With Friends Who Betray, Abandon, or Wound You, by Jan Yager, identifies a variety of coping techniques, and also helps you identify when a friendship is beyond saving (rating = A).
- Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry, by Albert Bernstein, for dealing with friends who are anti-social, histrionic, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive or paranoid (rating = A). Also consider Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You, by Susan Forward (rating = A), and In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, by George Simon, Jr. (rating = A).
- For whatever reason, there is more advice out there for women dealing with toxic same-sex friendships than there are for men. Mean Girls Grown Up: Adult Women Who Are Still Queen Bees, Middle Bees, and Afraid-to-Bees, by Cheryl Dellasega, discusses female relationships at different ages, and in various settings, with some extra emphasis on the workplace (rating = A). Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, by Irene S. Levine, who writes about how to handle it when a women’s friendship finally reaches the breaking point (rating = A+).
- Isn't It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?: Dealing with All of the Trickiest Money Problems Between Family and Friends -- from Serial Borrowers to Serious Cheapskates, by Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz, is a pretty comprehensive guide to financial etiquette (rating = A).
- See also:
As we age, we inevitable lose friends – some die, some move away, some go into residential care facilities that are too far away for us to visit, some become impaired in other ways that make visiting or oral communication difficult, and some just drift away from us for no particular reason. If we don’t continue to make new friends, we become more and more isolated. Putting some effort into establishing new friendships is arguably the most valuable investment you will ever make.
You might also be interested to know that according to one recent study, having good friendships appears to be even more conducive to health and longevity than having good family relationships (see “To Increase Longevity, Friends Are More Important Than Family” on About.com).
Some of us are not naturals at acquiring friends, though. We look at other people who make friends effortlessly, and wonder how they do it. But even if you are shy, or you just have a less extroverted personality, you can still make new friends in ways that do not have to make you uncomfortable.
- Free resources:
- “How to Make Friends And Get a Social Life,” at SucceedSocially.com, gives you basic information and suggestions about making new friends as an adult (rating = A). “How to Make Friends,” at WikiHow provides over 20 suggestions on this topic (rating = A).
- The “Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Info” website offers information, a diagnostic test, and links to other websites and written materials (rating = A). “Social Phobia World” is a site that provides a forum for sufferers to share ideas and information on this problem (rating = A).
- Mentoring or coaching younger folks is a great way to meet new people in a way that can be comfortable even if you are not the outgoing type. At least in the beginning, the emphasis is on what you know and can convey to the younger person, not on the personal relationship. But mentoring also gives you the opportunity to develop real friendships, and to do so with younger people who will help keep you younger! To learn more about mentoring, to take a free mentor training course, and to find opportunities in your area, try the “Mentoring.org” website (rating = A+) or “MentorYouth.com” (rating = A). The “Big Brothers Big Sisters” organization, of course, is well known and always looking for new volunteers, and it operates nation-wide. You can also volunteer locally at schools, athletic leagues, youth centers, scouting organizations, and other such groups – or you can volunteer with not-for-profits that serve adult populations if you prefer to connect with people in other age groups. You will not only meet new people you are helping to serve, but you will also meet fellow volunteers who share your interests.
- Other resources:
- Conversationally Speaking : Tested New Ways to Increase Your Personal and Social Effectiveness, by Alan Garner, provides lots of good advice for you, if you are not a natural conversationalist (rating = A).
- Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life, by Barbara G. and Gregory P. Markway, is an older but still valuable book on dealing with shyness (rating = A). Also consider Goodbye to Shy: 85 Shybusters That Work!, by Leil Lowndes, which despite the peppy title (and some of the writing) is authored by someone who is familiar with the scholarly research, and has also lived through this problem herself (rating = A-).
- The Heart of Mentoring: Ten Proven Principles for Developing People to Their Fullest Potential, by David A. Stoddard, emphasizes the inter-personal aspects of being a mentor to a younger person, unlike many books on mentoring that focus on business issues (rating = A).
- See also:
The internet can help you find people who share your interests, and can help you keep in touch with people you already know. “Social networking” sites enable you to connect with other people who register at the same website, and there are many such sites devoted to particular interests, as well as some that are open to just about anyone – so you can pick the one(s) that suit you.
Email is also an easy (free) way to keep in touch with most people – and although it can seem impersonal and cold if you haven’t tried it, most people find that it makes it easier than ever to stay in communication with almost anyone, and especially people who are far away, hard to reach by telephone, or that you don’t feel comfortable calling or who are not likely to respond to cards or letters you might send by regular mail.
If you don’t have your own computer with an internet connection, most public libraries offer free use of computers. If you use one of the free email services, you can usually send and receive email on public library computers. It's still private, because you'll have your own personal password for your email account.
- Free resources:
- “Social Networking Sites for Older People,” on LoveToKnow.com, is a good introduction to the concept of social networking for adults (rating = A-). Also see “The Pros and Cons of Social Networks”, by Gary Harvey on eZine.com (rating A-). Wikipedia’s “List of Social Networking Sites” contains over 200 social networking websites, noting for each what subject matter their members focus on, and how many registered members they have (rating = A+, partly for staying current with info about newer sites). And as you perhaps know, “Facebook” is the largest social networking site for both young people and, increasingly, their parents and grandparents – so it's still the best general site for staying in touch with the most people.
- “Top Free Email Sites,” by Heinz Tschabitscher at About.com, lists the most-used websites that offer you email services for free, with a bit of commentary about each (rating = A).
- “Spam” is the e-mail equivalent of junk mail – some of which can be dangerous to your computer, or can present scams that are dangerous to your bank account. The basic rules of thumb are: (1) do not respond to any unsolicited email, even (especially) those that appear to be from financial companies or other vendors asking you to enter or confirm personal information, and (2) never click on any link or open any attached pictures or files on any email unless you are positive that you know who it is from and that it is safe. “Anti-spam Techniques,” on Wikipedia, tells you more, if you want to know more.
- “Twitter” is an increasingly popular conduit to receive streams of messages from the famous, from friends and relatives who participate, and from all kinds of other people. So it’s a great way to listen in, if you have time for that, and also a good way to send out news about yourself, if you have an audience that cares. The “Twitter” article on Wikipedia provides a good overall explanation of the concept, or you can go right to the Twitter.com website itself.
- Other resources:
- See also:
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