— By KATHY SMITH
Friendships are important and especially to older adults. Friends help to give one a sense of belonging, self-worth, and satisfaction in life.
Friends are people we know we can trust. They are special to us socially and emotionally because they are our favorite companions and confidants. Friends are usually chosen from among people who are considered social equals. We tend to select friends who we have grown up with, who we have similar interests, have similar occupations, have children the same age, and are generally the same general age.
The majority of adults have three or more close friends and more than half of adults tend to have 10 or more friends. Men and women have the same number, however women are likely to confide more in their friends than men. Men tend to enjoy activities such as golf, hunting and woodwork with their friend.
We expect different characteristics from long-term as compared to short-term friends. Long-term friends are the only people with whom we can reminisce about memories that occurred during our lifetime. Changes in life such as health, widowhood or retirement are less disruptive in long-term friendships. Short-term friendships help us to deal with changes that affect our daily roles, such as moving to a new town, volunteering or starting a new job.
Adults expect to receive emotional support and companionships from their friends. When that is not achieved, the result may be a break in confidence, invasion of privacy, criticism, or loss of respect. In times of crisis, we expect close friends to provide support and companionship.
Social interactions with friends help us lead longer and healthier lives. Studies have shown that people who enjoy the fellowship of friends live longer and are healthier than their counterparts who are socially isolated. Friends are relied upon for emotional support. A close network of friends helps us through the challenging times of life.
The best gift a friend can give is to be a good listener. Some other ways friends can strengthen their relationship are:
• Stay in contact by phone, email or in person.
• Allow your friends to express emotions. Many emotions may be unpleasant, but be empathetic.
• Pay attention to your friend’s feelings and his or her perception of the seriousness of the situation.
• Being non-judgmental and not offering advice unless asked.
• Preparing a meal and delivering it to your friend’s home.
• Doing your friend’s laundry.
• Running an errand for your friend.
• Offering to relieve caregivers of their responsibilities.
Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for Parker County. Contact her at (817) 598-6168 or firstname.lastname@example.org.