Toddling off to school may have brought an unexpected surprise to many of us. We discovered other youngsters – similar to us, at least in age. Some of these others may have become more than just passing acquaintances. We really shined up to some who became our friends. So, while attending school allowed us to grow intellectually, we also cultivated another aspect of our lives – the social aspect. We may have even heard that how we functioned on the school playground would be a predictor for how well we would succeed in other aspects of life.
And then it happened. We outgrew school. The natural friendship breeding ground disappeared. Taking its place, though, was the world of work for many of us – and/or the world of raising a family. Those in the workplace may have found colleagues with whom they shared common interests – and some new friendships blossomed. Those raising a family may have found new friendships among the parents of their children’s friends – meeting on the playground, or playing fields, or at band concerts, scout meetings, athletic practices, and more.
And then, once again, it happened. The world shifted. The kids grew up and moved out and on. And retirement was no longer a far-away dream – it would become a reality. So the natural fertile ground within which we grew our friendships may have gone barren.
Our increasing longevity is nothing new. Yet Mother Nature has yet to figure out a way to help us replenish and refresh the “Friendship Pool” in our more mature – dare I say “senior years.” Research increasingly shows the importance of maintaining a strong social life throughout our lives. Helping Mother Nature along, though, is an interesting “project” described recently by Paula Span in her piece in the NY Times, entitled “Men’s Group Gets Men Talking.” Ms. Span thoughtfully describes the Riverdale Senior Service Center’s men’s group (located in the Bronx). Not to my surprise, at least, this group of people, who happen to be men, a couple in their 60’s and most in their 70’s and beyond, have found great “value” in the simple act of enjoying each other for conversation on a weekly basis. Ms. Span notes that the group is not being poked and prodded or examined by any researchers. Probably just as well. The participants are having a heck of a good time joking, conversing, at times admonishing, and yes, caring for each other. By many measures, this group is a huge success.
And so, we don’t have school, we don’t have work, we may not even have our kids. What we do have though, is each other. Reach out and find those others. Our well-being depends on it!