Staying connected as we age: What’s your advice?

Last week, many readers helped out Jenny, who was struggling to find a career in today’s difficult job market. This week, I received a request for life lessons for living on a different topic: How to stay connected and manage relationships later on in life. Please share your life wisdom with Ed – what advice do you have for this couple when it comes to evaluating how to spend their social time?

Here’s Ed’s letter to me:

I want to first say that after seeing you discuss your recent book on TV, Lessons for Living” I promptly  obtained a copy, read it cover to cover, and realized by intent or just good luck that my wife of more than 60 years and I are still on our honeymoon.  We are very lucky , have had a wonderful successful family and  friends, many of whom are younger than we are. We are both 80 and are blessed by excellent health, vigor and and youthful appearances.  We look and act as if we were in our early sixties, although our three boys are in their fifties.

It is becoming difficult for us to continue a friendship with some of our contemporaries when their entire conversations seem to be focused around  their physical problems, illnesses, and subtle disapproval of  our life style, friends and family.  As a result we tend to spend time with couples who are ten to fifteen years younger than we are.

My question to you: A couple our age  with whom we have had a good friendship for more than 10 years now seems to be focused entirely on their illnesses, and criticizing our life style and interests. The husband rarely talks but the wife criticizes our life style, religious (Unitarian) background, and almost anything else that comes to her mind.  Is it wrong for us to cut gradually down on the number of encounters with this couple, because we see little likelihood of having a positive continuing relationship or should we just continue to be there for them?

Many thanks for your thoughts.

Please weigh in – what do you suggest, based on your own life wisdom?

6 thoughts on “Staying connected as we age: What’s your advice?

  1. I’m wondering if they are distractible…when you get together, perhaps there could be a focus like going to a concert or play, or having specific activity like a game night. It is easy to talk about aches and pains, but with some structure you might still be able to enjoy being with them….

  2. To: Alan

    Friends are owed a high degree of tolerance; Conversely, friends ought to be able to bear a high degree of disagreement and/or correction, even good-humored mockery. If one cannot be tolerant of friends, then it is time to sever; if friends cannot bear disagreement, correction, mockery, then that also is the time to sever. Of one thing — being a decade your senior — I am certain: Death ends friendships effectively,, and Life, as it stretches on, provides few replacements, especially ones that are enjoyable.

  3. Depressing friends are still valued. However, other outreach can be cheerful. For example, teaching remedial classes at a community college, or doing volunteer work (with mostly younger people) at an agency like CASA (court-appointed special advocates) , Sunday School Class, or dancing at some local offering can match your life-full interests with your needs. Good fortune in your jouney!
    PS (I am 72) and two of these are my savings along with our farm. The animals are so engaging in their unique personalites—even our chickens (which most communities allow, though obviously they are not the same as social contacts.
    Best Wishes!

  4. “Is it wrong for us to cut gradually down on the number of encounters with this couple, because we see little likelihood of having a positive continuing relationship or should we just continue to be there for them?”

    I do believe that you have answered your own queston within your question.

    If you can be of assistance to this couple as an example of what life can really be like, wonderful! If this is not a possibility, gradually back out of the relationship. If a relationship with others is not positive, what is the purpose?

    I am smiling as I write this. I can feel your energy and care in your words. Thank you for sharing this.

    Robin Korth
    Insights On Aging.

  5. Could you perhaps cut down gradually on contact but also be there for them, especially when they truly need you? Don’t abandon them (sounds like they are fearful of the aging process), but don’t let the downer of each contact drag you down, too. The words of the song that goes “make new friends but keep the old, one is silver the other gold” has a lot of truth to it. Perhaps they are giving you an unconscious lesson on how (or how not) to age, so your contacts could be a learning experience … hopefully for them as well as you. Where I live, a wonderful continuing care community of about 1500 independently-living residents, many of my new friends are 10-15 years older than I. Residents whose conversations constantly bemoan their ailments (we ALL have them) or being critical of everything and everyone tend to gravitate to others who share their feelings while many of us revel in the joy of meeting new friends and trying new activities. Age is a state of mind. So … care for your old friends when they need you, enjoy your new friends, and may your honeymoon continue for many years!

  6. A person is as young as they feel .Live your life to the fullest, Never mind what the other person say.

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