Photo: 20th Century Women with Annette Bening

I tried to dump one of my best friends recently, let’s call her Anna; deliberately turned down invites. Didn’t instigate meet-ups for coffee. Was slow on the Whatsapp replies. She was offended, rightly so. She’s 36. I’m 67, says Elaine Kingett.

‘Are you OK? What’s wrong?’

“I should have friends my own age. Not hang around with people my kids’ age.’

‘What? Are you crazy? Don’t you think I need YOUR friendship?’

When I had breast cancer it was a younger friend who got my blood pressure down at the pre-assessment, by taking me across to Carluccio’s for a large glass of red. It was my son who accompanied me to the actual op and my daughter’s friend who picked us both up afterwards. It was Anna who turned up at my door with treats, goodies and hugs when I was convalescing.

I’ve always had friends of all ages, and worked with younger people, but as I get older my younger friends (of both sexes) have become increasingly important. Their energy, spontaneity and willingness to buck the trend seems more attuned to my own lifestyle. They cheer me up, take me out and remember to phone. We share the same musical and sartorial tastes and my single-woman need for a loving touch is generously fulfilled by their warm, readily-offered hugs.

Friends my own age have partners and grandchildren to occupy their time and many are retired, with the funds to enjoy it. Yes, in the past I envied them but I’ve finally woken up to the fact that friendship is not about age but about sharing – hopes, fears, experiences, passions and most of all – love and laughter. Thanks, Anna – you know who you are!

Elaine Kingett runs creative writing holidays in Spain and Wales and workshops in London; for more information check out Write It Down.

 

28 thoughts on “The joy of having younger friends

  1. YesYesYes. You have to have friends. No requirements except the willingness to connect and be yourself. All the rest falls away.
    One of the best compliments I received was from a friend who told me that she has to be reminded (by someone on the outside) that I am her mother’s age. I forget that she is closer to my daughter’s age.
    Maybe that’s because it doesn’t matter. It’s the friendship that matters.
    Why deprive yourself of these experiences because of differences in age?

    Sheila

  2. This is exactly the message we are working on getting across with a campaign that is coming out in October called Bridging the Gap. I think the age bias goes both ways. When we are older, we don’t always take the younger women seriously because they are so young. Yet we were young once and still wonderful people. And it behooves us to have different perspectives about everything.
    So yay to women of every age!!
    XOXO
    Jodie

  3. One of my best friends is almost 71 and I am 52 …we are both nurses (she’s retired but still works casual) and she has flare for style , a certain zest and spirit for life and travel…it is her wisdom and energy that brings us together and nurtures my soul…I think we are true kindred spirits ✨✨

  4. What counts is caring supportive friends irrespective of age and stage. Some of my friends of my age have grandchildren and enough income to enjoy leisure and travel. Others never managed to have children to their regret. I too have younger friends engrossed with teenage children awaiting critical GCSE and A Level results right now. Watching their anxiety I am so relieved to have lived through that stage. That my sons got their exam grades got to Uni and completed their degrees when it cost far less than now. I’m able to empathise with the younger friends only at the beginning of this phase and full of worry about how to finance it all for several offspring. Real rapport comes from shared values and shared tastes and political outlook in this day and age.

  5. Yes, yes, yes!!!! I adore my younger friends, for their view on the world, their fashion ideas, their children (who they share with me from time to time) their book/film/tv choices. I love the way they confide in me, the way I can confide in them in return….
    Most of all, I love the way I am ageless in their company.
    Thank you sweet Trudie, Riss and V

  6. I loved this post. I really did. I have a lot of younger and older friends and some people just don`t get it. The ones that are my age
    were school mates . It wouldn’t be fair to make friends during your school years and then just stop cultivating friendships along the
    way. Friendship as Elaine says is about sharing . Something that has nothing to do with age.

  7. What a great post! I think it’s important to have friends across many age groups. I do not have children and I find it refreshing to spend time with people of all different ages. I understand completely the sentiments expressed by the author!

  8. I do agree, Elaine. I,ve had the best time travelling with my son and daughter, aged 34 and 30. And I love the carefree humour of younger people.
    I also have a theory that being around them helps to keep our brains exercised, I hate being caught out as being forgetful, so I make an extra effort, which I don,t with friends my age because they are forgetful too,and I can get away with it ! It’s good for us to be kept on our toes.

  9. Thx for confirming what I too thought was right but turned out to be wrong! “A friend is a friend no matter how small!” And I would add or how old or how young!! Again thank you!

  10. This is a great subject for a post, I wish I had though of it myself! I often comment to my daughters how important it is for me to have friends of all ages, some closer in age to them than me. I would feel terribly old if I only spent time with people my own age. Working in fashion I’m exposed to people of all ages, nationalities and sexual orientation, many of whom have become close friends, which enriches my life tremendously. Thank God for diversity of all kinds.

  11. Soooo important. Aside from the value of staying in touch with all sorts of viewpoints, there is a very practical reason for having (significantly) younger friends. This came to me in a rush when my parents got past 75 or so. Their friends and neighbors were all passing on or moving to be near children and grandchildren. Suddenly, the people they had socialized with for decades were out of the picture. Fortunately, the younger folks who moved onto their street were wonderful and bonded with my parents.

  12. I just lost one if my really good friends, I am 54 and she was 85. Age was never a barrier or issue….I just loved her spirit. My life will be a little less enriched by her death.

  13. I have two very good friends who are in their mid thirties. Had I had a mid-teen pregnancy, I would be old enough to be their mom and so fully expected them to eventually think me a drag. But wouldn’t you know it, they think I’m fabulous and hip and we have been happily socializing for about five years now. They are both married, and one has a young child, but that doesn’t seem to matter to them. Certainly not to me (I’m married, no kids). We all bring unique perspectives and passions to the table, and they never make me feel old and I never make them feel millennial. Instead, being in each others’ presence is terrifically energizing. I can’t imagine only cultivating friendships with people my own age.

  14. I am extremely fortunate to be close to all of my five adult children. I always joke that I gave birth to my best friends. They range in age from 25-40. They keep me mentally and physically younger than my 60 year old self would be otherwise. I do believe we have to have friends of different ages, younger and older to let us feel all the emotions of life.

  15. I remember being the younger friend in the relationship, and how valuable that has been. Now (wow! that was fast) I’m the much older friend in some relationships. I think about it a lot, and treasure it immensely. What a gift to have younger friends…. friends of all ages. Enjoyed reading all the comments to this post!

  16. My partners best friend died a few years back, he was 97, they met at a conference in the mid 1980s when one was 82 the other 28. The visited each other back and forth across the Atlantic for fifteen years. That friendship gave us insight into the world before the Second World War from someone who was a friend rather than our parents, (and wasn’t going to pretend that none had premarital sex before 1968!!) someone who had lived an extraordinary life. The lesson I learned was that cultivating relationships with younger people is probably the only reliable way not to stagnate mentally as we get older. But you have to be brave and accept that it’s not a one way street where you are always doling out your wisdom and advice – younger people will challenge you and that’s the brilliant thing about it. Its very easy to sit in the comfy warm bath of friendships with people “just like me” who will never challenge your views or push you out of your comfort zone! The effort pays dividends.

  17. For me I have friends who are much younger than me or older. I have a hard time connecting to women my own age-58. Yoga buddies, book buddies and my political views are more aligned with younger friends. I look for wisdom and advice from my older buddies.

  18. Surely people are people and friends are friends. (To state the obvious!). I have friends of all ages and have never actually thought very much about it. If I spent all my time with 60 year olds (like myself) I would obviously go nuts although to touch base with contemporaries is quite lovely too. I value younger peoples vitality and new ideas and older friends wisdom. But, as I say, it is something that I have never given much thought to.

  19. For the last decade I have gravitated to THE OLDER WOMAN FRIEND.I have MORE in common with them for some reason!
    I have let friends GO who were close to my age because I DID ALL THE WORK……..making the phone calls, staying in touch,planning the BIRTHDAY SOIREE’s, etc………I felt they did not FEED MY SOUL and MY TIME has become VERY IMPORTANT TO ME!

    XX

  20. Thanks for this Elaine, I so get it. Being an ex-pat I find many of the ‘women my age’ are retired and have comfortably slipped into retired roles; grandparents, ladies who lunch, ladies who join craft clubs and it is my young tribe of work clients and facebook followers who keep me moving forwards and feeling nurtured and stimulated in all areas of my life. I don’t actually get that from my kids as my determination not to age is somewhat of a disappointment when they were looking forward to a babysitter and a ‘real grandma’ figure in their lives. C’est la vie.

  21. I often wonder why do you young un’s want to hang out with me. Yet they do!!! And I am so happy I am included in their plans. They add so much interest and freshness. Thanks for this post!

  22. Wonderful post! I have friends of all ages, but the three who are closest to me are all around 15 years younger than I am. We’ve traveled together, played together, and been there for one another through good times and bad. They’re still working women and I’m retired, they’re moms of almost grown kids and I’m a grandmother, but these things don’t seem to interfere with our friendship. Sometimes they tell me that they want to be me when they grow up!

  23. When I was young, my older friends were supremely important in helping me put my life together. They were also really fun! Now I am old(er) I try to be that kind of friend to younger people myself. It’s a good legacy to pass on.

  24. I’ve had friends 20 years younger and 15 years older. I think we all get something from a different perspective, don’t we? I’ve never felt a lack of things in common, we share what we know and feel. My young friends make me feel wiser and my older friends make me feel younger!

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