When You Need A Friend

Yes, its tough to make friends over 50. Heres why.

Dont get me wrong. Age, per se, doesnt make it hard to make new friends. In fact, women of a certain age are more comfortable in their skin and generally have had more opportunities to hone their skills at making friends. But a growing number of women over the age of 50 admit to feeling a real friendship deficit: Either they dont have enough friends or dont have the right ones.

For example, a woman may wish she had a kindred spirit with whom she can share her innermost hopes and fears, or she might be missing a friend whos available when she calls at the last minute to help her shop for a special gift or outfit.

Most of us have friends who once played starring roles in our lives but who have now drifted away. Sometimes we feel guilty or ashamed about the loss. Yet most friendships, even very good ones, have varying expiration dates and usually dont last forever. Here are some of the reasons for the predictable turnover:

1) Women go through various ages and stages of life. In high school and college, everyone is living in close proximity, doing the same things, and sharing somewhat similar interests and lifestyles. These are the days when its as easy to make new gal pals as it is to shave off five pounds in a week. When women start moving, mating, and mothering, they grow in different directions.

2) Many women feel too busy to nurture their relationships with friends. Juggling parenting and work, or taking care of older relatives, can be so consuming in terms of time and emotion that they never dream things will slow down or come to an abrupt halt. When it does, their friends have dropped off their radar.

3) Some of us are shy, by nature, and prefer to spend leisure time in solitude rather than with other people. As women age, however, even recluses realize they need the companionship of others. Multiple studies have established links between good health and solid friendships, and there are practical benefits to having friends nearby who can provide advice, support, companionship and concrete assistance as you approach the minefields of your 60s and 70s.

4) Technology is seductive; while it enhances friendships, it isnt a substitute. With laptops, smart phones and IPads at our fingertips and friends available online 2/47, its far easier to post on Facebook or send an email or text than to schedule time with a friend. But women are realizing that they miss being together in-person. They crave being able to see each others facial expressions and body language, and to better understand the nuances that cant come across on a computer monitor.

5) Finally, some women have mistakenly fallen prey to the myth that by 50, everyone else already has their friends and its too late to board the Ark as a twosome or threesome. In truth, many women are still looking for friendships just as you are.

Irene S. Levine, PhD, is a professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her most recent book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend. She blogs at www.TheFriendshipBlog.com/

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