How to not die alone: make friends of all ages

By Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer

I’ve never died before, but in my limited life experience, I’ve come to learn of some truths concerning what to do before I get there.

A conversation I had with a stranger over the summer opened my eyes to a sad fact –– most of my friends are my age. This is not in itself a bad thing; it is good to have friends to walk alongside you who empathize with the depths of your grief and the height of your joys. But what about a friend to offer a challenging, fresh perspective you never would have considered? Or a friend to share their own tried-and-true wisdom?

As little as we like to consider death, the reality is we will all face it someday, sadly some sooner than others. What’s more, if your friends are all within your age range, they could eventually start to die, leaving you one by one. Although slightly depressing, it’s important to think about it before too late. It’s no different than befriending people who are your senior in college and having them graduate before you do.

Do you want to know how not to die alone? Intentionally seek out meaningful friendships with people of all ages.

Whether you’re finding your way in college, wondering what’s next after a midlife crisis or contemplating retirement, we all need friends who are younger to renew our hope and inspire us, and older ones to share their perspective and understanding.

Befriending a younger person does not automatically designate the older friend as the “teacher.” While this is often the case for a number of reasons, entering conversations or relationships with a mindset seeking to learn from the other person will both teach humility and demonstrate that everyone has valid thoughts, feelings and opinions regardless of their life experience. Age typically means you know a lot, but it doesn’t mean you know everything.

While the majority of my closest friendships are with people my own age, a couple of relationships in my life stand out as models for future friendships.

My thirteen-year-old cousin is both my family member and friend. Keeping in touch with her and listening to her as she relates her seventh-grade struggles makes me feel old, but perhaps more importantly, gives me an opportunity to speak into her life things I wish I would have known. I’m thankful for her quirkiness, genuine love for fun and untainted view of the world and how it works. I hope trade some of my cynicism for her easy optimism.

I’ve also had the pleasure of befriending a few adults in my church, many of whom have become mentors as well as friends. Learning from their experiences as parents and professionals in their respective workplaces has given me insight on how I would (or would not) want my life to look like in the future. As for the present, I deeply value their input into how I ought to navigate certain scenarios. As individuals who have “been there, done that,” I have much to learn from the mistakes and successes of those who walked the path before me.

While I’m still working on cultivating a variety of friendships, I hope at the end of my life I will be a product of a diverse set of stories that in turn shaped my own.

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