Updated: Dec 5, 2018
What would you say is the biggest challenge of aging while living in today's America?
Losing friends: that is my biggest challenge as I age. Most of my deepest and most cherished friendships are with people I've known for twenty, thirty, forty-plus years. While death hasn't robbed me of many of my friends so far, changes in our individual circumstances has certainly changed the dynamics of our relationships. More about that later.
Through my work as a forensic gerontologist, I have had the great good fortune of traveling all over the world as well as living for extended periods in some exotic locales. This afforded me the opportunity to immerse myself in distinctly different cultures. As a result, I have met and befriended a wide array of interesting and culturally diverse people.
I am gregarious by nature so I easily meet people from all walks of life. But really getting to know new people now that I am in my sixties and befriending them is quite a different process than it was when I was younger. For me, many of my friendships changed when I returned to my parents' home to care for them as their health continued to decline. My world became increasingly confined: to their home, to their doctor visits, to their hospitalizations, and finally to their hospice care over a ten-year period. I was no longer exposed to a broad array of people while my parents were in my care. I was no longer exposed to intergenerational social situations which I had always relished. And, now that I continue to live in a small town my options for involvement in stimulating adventures and meeting new world-wise people seem to be diminished as well. This is especially true in winter months when the summer tourists leave our chic-chic village.
As close friends move out-of-state (as I did) change their life due to health, financial, or political issues, or they die prematurely I find that I am left with a growing hole in my day-to-day life. Friends that I used to talk with daily no longer live close enough to "hang out" and share adventures. Sure they may be on Facebook or some other form of social media, but it's not the same as face-to-face communication and a good belly laugh together. In short, social media does a lot of things but it doesn't feed my soul like a good face-to-face discussion and fun times together with a friend.
Having a well-rounded life means different things to different people. For me a well-rounded life always, always involves intergenerational relationships, diversity of friends, and regular stimulating get-togethers where we can share our thoughts, our ideas, and our hearts. How else can any of us know what is going on in younger and older generations. How else can we learn about different perspectives on current issues, politics, points-of-view, lifestyles and respect for one another. After all is said and done, understanding only comes through open-mindedness, discussion, and seeing things through different eyes.
What about you? Let me know the biggest challenges that you face as you age. How have those challenges altered your life, your experience of daily living?