Jun 16, 2009

Friends Are More Important Than Money

For years I've been making the point that a strong friendship network is key to leading a successful life after retirement. After years of having this subject largely ignored as a huge element of successful aging, it was great to read the New York Times' recent article, "What Are Friends For? A Longer Life".

Mentioned in this article is an Australian study that found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22% less likely to die (during the study period) than those who were more socially isolated -- and an even more fascinating 2007 study that reported a 60% increase in obesity among people whose friends gained weight.

But one key thing about the value of strong friendship ties that most studies and commentators have missed so far is that the age of your friends is at least as important as the number. Or, put another way, if your friends are predominantly older than you are, or of the same age, then the more you have, the more funerals you'll attend.

Watching friends decline and die is obviously no fun -- so little that each time you go through this, you'll be at high risk of being sad and depressed for weeks, if not months.

So if having lots of friends will enrich your later years and may even contribute to your longevity, but experiencing the death of a friend will obviously be a bummer, what course of action will be best? The answer is to make and keep a good number of younger friends. Obvious, you may be thinking, but a lot easier said than done. Not so! As I'll explore in my next post, there are many ways to make true friends of all ages.