Reading another chapter in Ashton Applewhite’s book, This Chair Rocks, I found her discussion about having friends of all ages fascinating. She says that we tend to choose friends who are close to our own age. It’s nice when other share a common social history with you. Whoopi Goldberg once said that she knew it was time to end a relationship with a much younger man when he expressed shock to learn that Paul McCartney was in a band before he formed Wings.
Whether a lover or a friend, such common ground makes us tend to stick with our age group. Given the way most of us were herded by age throughout school, it seems only natural. But sometimes, we can carry it too far. Ashton writes, “Americans are more likely to have a friend of a different race than one who is ten years older or younger than they are.” Think about that. Take a look at your circle of friends. See any age gaps of 10 years or more?
Something I love is swimming laps. When I started, I swam with someone close to my age. Later, I found a group of older women who swam regularly. Finally, I joined a gym and started swimming with people of all ages. That was different. Some people easily zipped right past me in the next lane. Others could not keep up. What was most interesting is that age didn’t determine who the strongest swimmers were.
Having people from a variety of age groups in your social circle can bust stereotypes and misconceptions. And there are benefits, too. As I write this, I’m looking forward to spending the afternoon attending an annual event with friends who happen to be in their late 80s. Yesterday, I did a lot of texting with a friend who is in her 30s. My older friends keep me engaged in politics and world events. They also are signposts that help me choose which habits I do and do not want to keep. My younger friends encourage me stay active and keep me tuned in to popular culture. They also are a terrific resource when I need technology help!
We already know that having supportive social relationships is good for our health. Well, there’s added value to hanging around people who are not your age. When we restrict ourselves to our own age group, we limit our experiences and the ways we can grow. It may seem awkward at first. Especially when you are the oldest person in the room. But stretch beyond your comfort zone and look for opportunities to connect with people of all ages. As Ashton puts it, “lessons will be learned, and fun just might be had. The hard part is getting in the water.”