Not sure how long ago, but no more than five years, I came across an article about two women starting an online dating service, Hey!, Vina. Not newsworthy, right? There are date apps for just about anything. Actually, there are more than date apps than most of us seniors could imagine: Cougar Dating, Seeking One Night Dating, Chubby & Curve Singles. We will leave it at that. But the dating app the young New York women built made sense to me, something that could benefit women. Their app was for women, single or married, wanting to match up with women with similar interests and outlooks. It was for women who relocated to a new city and looking to find friends or just someone who loves meeting up at coffee shops to chat about everything and nothing. And what about recently widowed women finding themselves a bit of an outcast from their couples’ friends? On Hey!, Vina, they can find like-minded friends. There was one more thing.
With a little research, I located the email for one of the founders and wrote her. “Came across an article about Hey! VINA. Perhaps you already know this, but the name you chose, VINA, means female friend in Icelandic.” She wrote me back, “We had NO idea. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us.”
A Colorado Vina recently decided that she wanted to find a place, a community, to spend the rest of her years. What topped her list were favorable climate and opportunities to meet women that share her interests. While many of us decide to live near our children, Tim’s aunt said something that resonated with me; “Your friends, not family, are the people who will look out for you.” I interpreted this to mean that his aunt’s Florida neighbors had an understood pact they would keep an eye for each other. Now living in this kind of community, I understand what she was talking about.
If we do move to a community of peers or have decided it’s time to find new friends wherever we are, the important question is what to keep in mind when deciding if to invest time in a relationship. It’s not a question to take lightly. Who we hang out with impacts our mental health and outlook. It makes getting out of bed worthwhile. We scrutinized our children’s friends because we know how kids can influence each other for the better and worse. In picking friendships to nurture, we need more than the heart involved, we need the mind’s reasoning. Relationships are like elevators; they either bring you up or take you down. As you might have taken your time finding a mate fifty years ago, finding friends for the last stretch deserves the same attention.
Sometimes childhood friends are your best buds, but older years call for reevaluation. Not every relationship made at twenty is meant for the long haul. If we dare be honest with ourselves, we may see that some past bud relationships have become toxic. If you see Jane Smith on your phone’s screen and you dread answering, that’s one to let go of. The emotional part refuses to accept what you had back then expired a long time ago. Your rational mind needs to speak up.
Here are some thoughts on what to look out in friends to walk home with:
- Choose friends who share similar values. Diversity is admirable, but if you have made a living will and a health directive, you are in a different place than you were when dropping off the kids at school. Your time is best spent with like-minded people whose values and beliefs you share. Be friendly with all, but don’t waste the last few years thinking you are going to change people’s values. Like-minded friends will not take you astray, but hold you accountable to your values. I don’t want to know how often I’ve allowed myself to gossip or hop on the negativity train because others were riding it. Instead of beating myself up for the misstep, I want to avoid those situations altogether.
- Nurture friendships with people who motivate and encourage. Why have a friend who has succumbed to negativity? My friend, Nanette, sent me an MSN article, Negativity thinking linked to dementia in later life, study finds. Generally, we gravitate towards uplifting and positive people, and we want to be that friend for others. The best friends offer a listening ear then help put a positive spin on any situation giving you distance from your upset and a broader perspective.
- A purpose partner is a friend you share goals with and encourages you to move towards achieving them. Presently I have a goal to create a book of uplifting thoughts for women in the latter lanes with a photographer (purpose friend). We text back and forth to update and encourage. While my writing is a solo activity, working with a friend on a project is a nice change. Weight Watcher friends keep you on track. Fitbit friends continue to cheer, taunt, and message each other. My friend, Cindy, took up walking a couple of months ago and keeps taking the lead, so out I go for another thousand steps. I hope I do the same for her.
- When I started line dancing, I gained a new group of friends who “dance like nobody is watching.” It’s Cathy’s, the dancing coach’s email signature. With friends who share the same interests, golf, hiking, pickleball, performing arts, food, music, etc., you always have someone to “play with.”
- You may want to find friends who have a thirst for knowledge. Life, in my view, is about growing and learning. It’s not about espousing ingrained and unquestioned opinions. Reader friends recommend books, share events, and are great to share conversation over lunch or beer and pretzels at a local brewery.
- Invest time in friends who celebrate every milestone with you, theirs, and yours. They are genuinely happy when good things happen for you and, when needed, are on your doorstep holding a Tupperware container with chicken soup. These friends are rare jewels, so keep them close.
- Your spiritual group is people who “get-it.” They don’t take life or good health for granted or waste time on frivolous pursuits, judging, anger, or worrying about being right. Likely, they ponder the end-of-life and want to make sure not to waste time. My “get-it group” are nature lovers, meditators, and volunteers for the betterment of others.
In every relationship, there is a give-and-take. If we live by the Golden Rule (treat others as you wish to be treated), we will find fulfilling and rewarding relationships. With the guidelines above, you can determine if it’s time to branch out or boost the ties you already have. A friendship is time spent together out of choice. It’s time for memories and laughter and helps you sleep sounder at night.