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Did you know that August 1st was National Girlfriends Day? Many women spend the day to commemorating their friendships with other women and celebrating those bonds. Friendships can often be taken for granted, but real lasting friendships are valuable for many reasons. Meaningful friendships can be significantly beneficial as we age.
A recent AARP article discussed the importance of long term meaningful friendships for our health and overall well being. While family bonds are definitely important, those blood connections although loving, can me driven by duty and necessity. They may not be enough to satisfy the emotional need for community. Sociologist Peter Blau suggested an older person with a single good friend is more able to cope with old age than an old person with one dozen grandchildren but no peer-group friends, because peer friendships determine morale in older age. The New York Times recently referred to friendship as “a powerful weapon that could help fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong life”. And Harvard researchers have found that strong social connections could promote brain health in aging adults. There are also social benefits to building and maintaining friendships through all stages of life. “By making friends with more people, there’s less chance of injustice, war, poverty and much more,” says the United Nations website.
I have heard friends toss around statements like,”our friendship will last until we are old and gray”, or other saying about remaining life-long friends. Luella and Helen were my real-life example of those careless statements, played out not in ideology but in actuality. Luella and Helen lived across the hall from each other at the nursing home I worked at. They were self-proclaimed best friends. When I checked on one during my night shift rounds, she would immediately ask how the other was doing. During the day they were seldom seeing apart, their wheelchairs close together at meal times, bingo, getting pedicures, or just socializing in the lobby… I would help Helen dress for the day and she would roll out her door and wait for Luella to get ready. They were inseparable. It was a beautiful friendship to watch and learn from. They daily continued to cultivate their friendship in spite of age limitations and declining health. They laughed and smiled and brightened the lives of everyone around them.
There is much research suggesting that friendship is good for our health. Perhaps you’ve already realized that. If you have lost touch with a dear friend, consider reconnecting this month. Intentional friendship cultivating might mean you need to start actively looking for opportunities to meet new friends. Community groups, gyms, religious organizations, and senior centers are all great places to start. In the words of C. S. Lewis, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'”
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.