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Make Younger Friends

By Sunie Levin
Resident Blogger

At age 84, I have made friends that are 10-20 years younger.  Of course, I could be fooling myself, but they seem to enjoy my company – and I certainly enjoy being with them. How has this happened? Some probably look at me as a mom figure and seek advice. Most are simply good younger friends we’ve met along the way and my husband and I enjoy social activities and holidays with them.

I’m always willing to try new things, with the exception of bungee-jumping, sky-diving and whitewater rafting.  I am interested in people and curious about everything in the world. One of my son-in-laws teased me that I was interested in landfills. You betcha, they are interesting. 

Most of all I’m interested in people of all ages. My husband can’t believe I find out so much about a person I have just met, especially when it’s the TV repairman or someone in the grocery store.  I ask questions.  I’m not nosy, I really am interested.  Most people are delighted to talk to you; they enjoy talking about their kids and their grandchildren. Of course, you may meet the occasional grouch. 

After a certain age, how old you are doesn’t matter. It helps that both my husband and I look and act 10 years younger than we actually are. At least we think so. It’s not age, but attitude that makes the difference in acquiring younger friends.  Younger friends open new vistas to explore. I’m willing to try new things, I am interested in people. Hopefully that makes me more interesting.    

Every day there are people my age in my community I knew who died. That’s just the way it is. To replace them I go out of my way to acquire new younger friends. Perhaps they will be around longer. And I can ask the good looking couple down the street to be my pallbearers. 

We’ve all heard about chemistry.  We know what it’s all about, even if we’ve never seen a test tube in our lives. It’s the thing we can’t define, but we know it when it’s there. You can always sense it – that instant feeling of rapport, that here is someone I’d like to know better, who seems to be on the same wavelength.  When it happens, don’t hesitate to tell the person that you feel good about him or her and would like to spend time getting to know each other better. Making younger friends is a win-win. It gives you a fresher perspective on life. It gives them the benefit of seeing a road map for when they get older. 

So ask questions to learn more. Find out what the new acquaintance likes to do with his or her time.  With luck, there will be an overlap with things you do, and you can arrange to do them together. Ask about their family, where they have lived, hobbies and what they like to read and enjoy doing. 

As we grow older, it’s important to have a close friend who’ll really listen to you. Quite often we have problems with our children, we don’t approve of what they are doing, or how they’re raising our grandkids.  If we criticize, especially a daughter-in-law, we risk alienating her. We need a sounding board.  That’s where a new friend comes in.  Many times a younger friend can give better advice as obviously they are closer to the new generation. Younger friends keep us young too. Of course, you keep the old ones, but if that’s all you keep, you wind up without many. 

In retirement, other commitments become less demanding. We face the challenge of new ways to use our time.  Many seniors enjoy participating in intergenerational activities. They keep us active, and useful.  We can help tutor in a nearby school or volunteer with a Family Friends program. Foster grandparents programs help children with special needs.  Be a mentor to a teenager or a young adult starting a new business. Working with children and young adults gives you a sense of satisfaction like you have never had before. 

Start making new young friends of all ages.  No investment of time pays larger dividends. I can promise you will never be bored. 

Sunie Levin is author of Make New Friends, Live Longer and Ready or Not, Here I Come! How to Choose Your Best Retirement Community. Visit www.makenewfriendslivelonger.com and www.amazon.com/author/sunielevin.