Stay Connected: The Importance Of Friendships (For Older Guys)

I recently returned from a golf trip in Austin, TX. The attraction was not the golf or the music scene, but the fact I was with 8 friends who I’ve known for over 40 years. As a bit of background, we all turned 56 this year (within 4 months of each other), played on the same high school basketball and football teams, supported each other through weddings, divorces, kids, careers, and business.

This is the 24th straight year for our annual trip – same 8 guys – no one ever misses. With each trip, the stronger the bond becomes.

So why is this blog worthy? Your health for one reason – as men age we lose friends, and many of us have difficulties making new ones. Women, on the other hand, develop extensive social networks, while men rely on work for social interaction (which can be challenging in a dental office environment).

The reason this is significant is that people who have close friends tend to live a lot longer than those who are loners. It makes sense because humans, at our very essence, evolved as pack animals and need people around us.

The benefits are more than social – single men have higher rates of heart disease and cancer than married men – and they tend to die years sooner. People who go home to an empty house after a heart attack are twice as likely to have a second heart attack within a few months.

So how do you make time to not only be with your existing friends, but make new ones? Career, children, aging parents, and time with your spouse all seem to take priority. Well, the first step is recognizing the need for male friends and a need for a life outside of work and family. Once you’ve done that, you need to make a concerted effort to find individuals who share your values and experiences.

Examples include travel groups, fitness clubs, community-service programs, web-based organizations, and other outlets. I started ski racing again at 52 and met some of my newest and best pals. We range in age from 50 to 70 and we are all passionate about training, skis, waxes, etc.

Chris Crowley co-author of “Younger Next Year” (a must read for any male over 50) puts it this way… “The good life, the Thinner This Year life, is a three-legged stool. The three legs are: 1. Exercise, 2. Nutrition, and 3. Connection & Commitment.”

Make a conscious effort to make new connections and stay connected with family, friends, and others.  I wholeheartedly agree with Crowley that the final third of your life can be the best!

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