We are living longer and we are living happier. It is true -- research says so. And a large part of the reason for this pleasant phenomenon is our friendships.
Oh How We Age
Per the U.S. Administration on Aging, we are both getting older, on average, and a bit more alone. It seems 85 years is the average life expectancy for women in America; the average American male is expected to live until 83 and some change. That is the good news.
The bad news is that nearly a third (27%) of older folks in the US live alone, a statistic that jumps to 47% within just 10 years or at 75 years of age. Living alone is actually not a trend reserved for the aged; in fact it is one that spans the generations these days, especially with the associated trend for singlehood (a whopping 43% of American adults are single).
For American women the stat is even worse, as nearly 40% of women age 65 or older are widows, a characteristic that has significant ramifications on a person’s life.
But, here is the really interesting thing—as we age, we get happier.
The reason, so say those who study these things and are so much smarter than me, is that happiness is a function of contentment. And contentment comes from more realistic expectations and an acceptance of our lifetime achievements. Apparently it isn’t really that important that we didn’t write a best seller or run 12 marathons.
And given the fact that friendships lead to happiness, I’m going to extrapolate the conclusion that as we age we are happier because we are more content with our friendships, because we have less grand—or more realistic expectations for them.
Whether I am right or wrong (and I’m rarely wrong), the truth still is that we are an old happy bunch!
The Reasons Stay the Same
The other really interesting thing I discovered during my readings this morning is that whether we are 22 or 72, our reasons for needing, wanting and selecting someone as a friend pretty much remain constant throughout our lives.
• We like them (from the playground slide to the “electric slide,” they are fun to be around)
• We deem them “good” (they don’t steal our legos, our boyfriends or our dentures)
• We share similar interest (mortgages, martinis and Manolos—what else is there? )
• And, we develop a true caring for the other (we truly, truly want the best for them)
Likewise is the fact that regardless of age, we are regularly in need of restocking our supply of buddies. Friendships turn over as a direct result of movement in and out of various life events. When you move, you need to find new friends. When you divorce, you need new friends. When you marry, have children, retire, work virtual, become a widow, you need new friends to support your new life.
And while making new friends can be a bit easier in our early years (simply due to proximity to others when in school … and bars), the challenge of finding new friends as an adult spans the decades.
Of course we recommend SocialJane.com (the premier friendship networking site), as a great place to meet new women friends, but also echo the advice from author Marla Paul to get out and meet new people by accepting any and all invitations, to become active in your communities by attending functions of any and all sorts, by staying employed (either in a volunteer or W2-producing capacity), and by extending invitations to others.
We like this last tidbit so much that we are going to call it out with an expanded explanation.
Even if you feel as though you have all the friends that you could possibly handle, invite one more person into your fold.
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone has all the friends they need, and would welcome an invite to your walking group or to meet you and your neighbor for coffee. If you are blessed with a solid social circle, look for and include that woman whom you think may be a smidge lonely. It takes absolutely no additional effort on your part to include someone, so include someone. It could honestly make the world of difference in their lives and significantly improve their happiness.
So do it.
Friendship—It Does a Body (and Mind) Good
And speaking of making a difference in lives, did you know that good friendships can have dramatic health benefits for all of us?
Oft repeated in numerous studies, being in the company of good friends helps us to feel less stressed, make healthier decisions (in terms of exercise and diet), keep our memory strong and stave off dementia, and can significantly lengthen our live span, especially after a bout of illness.
Whether from the added support that your friendships deliver, or simply the added laughter they supply, these are health benefits that we can all use as we move into our later years.
So lets all pick up the phone and call a friend and start living longer and happier lives together.