Everyone should have older friends. I am not talking about someone a few years older than you, I am really talking about someone decades older than you. Someone who has lived their life significantly longer than you and might have a prospective that can help you see your situation in a new way. Someone who will teach you that this too shall pass, both the good things and the bad things and they’ll help you when necessary clarify what’s really important in life.
I have always loved elders. My first job after college was working as an activities director in a long-term assisted living facility in Massachusetts. Since I had recently lost my own grandmother, I felt adopted and counseled by the wise men and women who were my patients. It was during that time that I was having some relationship challenges and sought advice from Rose Brown a 90-year-old feisty women who offered her opinions liberally. Turns out she gave me excellent advice.
In my later 20’s, when my husband and I relocated to Portland, Oregon we befriended our Rabbi and his wife, Lisl. They visited us in the hospital when both of our children were born and we shared dozens of meals and events with them over the years as our children grew from toddlers to teens. After the Rabbi passed away a few years ago, the Rebbetzin remained in their family home. She is much less mobile these days but continues to remain independent and has quite a busy social life with a large extended family that visits her frequently.
I have continued to visit with the Rebbetzin since the Rabbi died and people will often say how nice it is that I still do that, but the truth is that she has become a dear friend. I love visiting with her and am often sad when a week passes and we haven’t had a chance to share a cup of tea. Even though there is a 50 year gap in our ages, I am continuously surprised how we can discuss subjects pertinent to my life and how her advice helps guide my actions. For example, yesterday while discussing teenage relationships my 90-year-old friend brought up sex. She may be ninety, but having reared three children of her own, seen the growth of several grand children and now dozens of great grandchildren she has plenty of experience to share with me. Despite the age difference and the fact that she is from a previous generation many of her suggestions are still very relevant and helpful.
Befriending an older friend who has wisdom and guidance to share can offer incredible two-way benefits. I am as much the beneficiary of any visiting I do with my dear friend as she is. If there is an older person you haven’t visited recently make some time to do it. Perhaps you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the counsel you’ll receive too.