THE ART OF AGING – PART XVI: Adult Friends. . . A Tough Find!

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Sculpture by Ju Ming

riendless in a crowded city? Feeling lonely in spite of the myriad of activities available in the bustle that surrounds you? Surprised at how lonely life is now that you’re ‘all growed up’, especially since your younger self had no problem making friends? Is it harder and harder to get together with the pals you do have and enjoy a really good time like you used to?

Many things get better as we age… but one thing that gets progressively worse is our ability to make new friends. *

Perhaps we thought that. . .

… Having spouses/children/colleagues would fill the friendship slot. Not always—the companion who works long hours six days a week, or who travels many months of the year, or whose vacation ‘away from it all’ includes slipping in time each morning to answer emails and respond to a phone call or two, or the partner who’s too tired at the end of a 75-hour workweek to want to do anything but watch TV and eat snacks…

… The pandemic didn’t help matters! Working from home meant/means no office mates to confab with over lunch about the number of files yet to be resolved, or to enjoy the bumpy ride home with from the oilfield in the boss’ old Cessna, or to bellyache to about how your little tyke kept you awake all night…

Yet, making friends is a problem that predates the Covid pandemic!

In 2012, Vancouver’s mayor launched a task force to combat loneliness in the city. . .

In 2017, the U.S. Surgeon General declared a loneliness epidemic. . .

In 2018, the U.K. appointed the world’s first Loneliness Minister. *

Marion Rose (1955-2011)

You’ve Got A Friend

Carole King

Friendship is a distinctively personal relationship that is grounded in a concern on the part of each friend for the welfare of the other, for the other’s sake, and that involves some degree of intimacy. . . Love and friendship often get lumped together as a single topic; nonetheless, there are significant differences between them. *

Research says it takes about 50 hours of your time to make a casual friend. An additional 150 hours or more can be expected if you want the relationship to morph into a closer friendship. And, apparently having a group of friends is more sustainable than having individual friendships. *

Do your friends make the cut?

John Nolan

If you’re one of the lucky few who has real friends, here’s a quick test to determine whether they’re real friends or not—would you trust them with a naked photo of yourself? Cornell University researchers say that it would be a maximum of two friends that you’d trust with that info. *

According to a study in 2006, twice as many people say they have no one they can discuss important matters with, let alone show a naked photo of themselves to. *  Might this be a reason lawyers and psychologists are forever in demand? Pay the money, and someone looks and listens.

So, what qualities does a chum need to truly be a friend? Experts say that a good friend is—

  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Dependable
  • Loyal
  • Non-judgmental
  • Good listener
  • Supportive in good times and bad.

Alex Lickerman M.D. says a true friend will be committed to my happiness, will be a good influence, and will never compromise my principles for the sake of the friendship.

One Is The Loneliest Number

WAITING FOR YOU – Canadian Sculptor Branimir Misic

Three Dog Night

Loneliness is a state of mind characterized by a dissociation between what an individual wants or expects from a relationship and what that individual experiences in that relationship… One can experience a lonely state of mind while being with people at work, at home or even in a marriage. And, loneliness is contagious. *

In 2019, barely 14% of Canadians said they were happy with their social lives. 62% wished friends and family would spend more time with them, while 33% said they do not have friends or family they can count on to help when needed… *  That same year, two Canadians each day asked to be lethally injected because of loneliness! * This was before Covid hit the world stage! Sad stats indeed!

Loneliness can be as bad for your body as smoking a pack a day. New research warns that connecting more virtually and less in real life might be literally killing you! *

Lonely Canadians are experiencing higher rates of death, cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, substance use/addiction, as well as struggling to control issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes. *   

More sad data… Zoomers, those born between the mid-90s and 2012 and otherwise known as Gen Z, are said to be the loneliest age group, while 65% of millennials and 50% of Generation X most often feel lonely. *

GIANT HOUSENew Zealand Sculptor Josie Martin

Thumbs up to FB Friends ? ? ?

Making friends during this digital age promises easy access and communication. If that’s the case, why do the stats say that we’re more lonely now than ever before? How come the social media fan clubs we built aren’t supplying us with a bevy of ‘good’ friends?

MIT professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology, Sherry Turkle, believes that the Internet offers us the illusion of “friendship without the demands of companionship”. * 

The cuddle hormone, oxytocin, released during a simple hug, can never be released in a Facebook ‘like’ or during an online chat. *

THE CONVERSATION — Mary Stevenson Cassatt 1844-1926

So, why are good friends such a tough find?

As we age, these are just a few of the many reasons psychologists give that might explain our friendship struggle: * *

  • Low trust
  • Lack of time
  • Introversion
  • Fear of rejection
  • Too picky
  • Shrinking environments that would otherwise naturally lend themselves to meeting people and developing relationships.

Hell is other people! Jean-Paul Sartre

Click here for a more comprehensive look at what Sartre might have meant.

Introverts tend to have fewer but stronger friendships which has been linked to greater happiness. *

Did you know that people who like spending time alone and are unafraid of being single, are more open-minded and “especially unlikely to be neurotic”? *   Recent studies suggest that there are potential benefits to being a loner, such as:

  • Being creative
  • Having a healthy mind
  • Being confident and independent
  • Honing leadership skills

The status and reputation of quiet, introverted leadership is undervalued and under-appreciated… Yet, recent research reveals that introverted, quiet leaders may be more suited for today’s workplace. *  

Not that long ago, as parents, it was thrust upon us as to how important it was for wee ones to have extensive social experiences. Nursery school, pre-school, and definitely don’t-let-your-little-one-miss-out-on-kindergarten were considered the minimum for developing healthy, happy, well-socialized children. I say ‘minimum’ because on top of school, we were to have them in—

  • Swimming lessons at 6 months old, this to carry over until they were certified Lifeguards;
  • Dance lessons by 2 years of age, this to include tap, hip-hop and jazz;
  • Gymnastics at 3, followed by hockey until they make a national team;
  • TaeKwonDo at 6, and piano lessons at 8, both lifetime involvements.

AND… if a child showed/shows signs of success in these wonderful training programs, the child was/is often also involved in school/community plays/musicals, athletic events, and so on. Coming home pumped from all the exciting energy involved as participants, it can be difficult to ‘let down’, especially for the introvert.

Introverts need an opportunity to recharge. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much togetherness. *

A loner’s creativity generally contains “two key elements: originality and usefulness, with a lack of concern for social norms”. *

How Can I Go On

Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé

Soon after your mid-20s, your social circle shrinks, so say scientists from Finland’s Aalto University and Oxford University in England. * In sum, those of us over the age of twenty-five need not be too surprised that friendships dwindle, change, and/or end over time.

Friendship troubles are not related only to cognitive, affective, and behavioral interaction processes, but also to friendship structure and context. *

The end of a friendship can be heartbreaking. My sister’s chum of almost four decades dies suddenly. At sixty-five years of age, another family member has the joy of finally meeting her soul mate, only to bid him farewell eighteen months later when she dies of cancer.

Some friendships end by choice. ‘Toxic relationships and ‘boundaries’ are common terms we hear today. Jealousy, blame, and gaslighting are considered reason enough to rethink a relationship.

Boundaries can change, depending on the situation, one’s values, cognitive, physical, or emotional capacity, and so on. *

Re-evaluating a relationship can lead to distancing or terminating the investment we make into that friendship. Professional advice is now readily available online about knowing when to set boundaries, knowing how to identify the need for boundaries, when and how best to terminate a relationship.

 – Michael Ancher

Compared to decades ago, people are four to five times more likely to have no friends. And it’s worse among men, having risen fivefold, while fourfold for women. *

For What It’s Worth

Liam Gallagher

FRIENDSHIP – American artist Agnes Martin 1912-2004

We make mistakes along Life’s path, especially when others are involved. We say or do something regrettable, we forget others completely, and sometimes we’re so busy that we aren’t even good friends with ourselves. We can also find ourselves giving far more than is necessary, loving more deeply than is ever reciprocated, and trying to bring joy all round.

We have the ability to forgive our past misdoings and to forgive others for theirs, thereby being enabled to feel freedom and joy—as extroverts finding a way to meet others and make friends, or as introverts sharing our creative spirit.

If you want to make or maintain friends, my takeaway from the research is:

  • Make a list of what you have to offer in a relationship
  • Make a list of what you expect in a relationship
  • Remind yourself that rejection is part of the friendship process, and the reasons for rejecting are numerous, often unsubstantiated, and sometimes everlasting
  • And above all, know what type of friendship it is that you seek—
    • Of UTILITY? Get a job where people gather. One cousin, a retired widower with adult children employed away, went to work at a hardware store. His pension more than covered his needs but not his desire to be socially active. His new minimum wage job did the trick!
    • Of PLEASURE? Join a club where people gather for the fun of it. Get involved in activities that engage folk from various walks of life—volunteer for sporting events, a community theatre troupe, church fundraisers…
    • Of GOOD? This might well be the toughest friend to find and nurture. It will take a significant investment of time to see it through, and it may include loss along the way.

Addio fiorito asil (Goodbye Fiorito Asil)


Rejection is the pain of loving, of caring, of giving. Undeniably, rejection occurs throughout life, and it is one of the more difficult things to handle. Yet, if we don’t try connecting with others, we may miss out on a meaningful relationship with a genuine friend.

As loners, it can sometimes be easier to avoid rejection, since we’re not engaged with others as often. As an extravert, the quality friendships maintained can help to smother the pain of rejection.

Rejection has many faces, many purposes, and many outcomes. Rejection can sneak up on you, smash you hard, and be completely erroneous.

I knowingly have been rejected because I wasn’t religious enough, because of my choices during the Covid pandemic, and because my life experiences are not typical.

I’ve rejected others for their intolerance towards those who struggle in life, for being manipulative, and for expecting me to be their happiness or at least their ticket to happiness.

When we’re rejected, we seldom know the true reason behind it. And, unfortunately, TIME doesn’t always heal whatever reason a person has for rejecting us. TIME can also distort the real reason for being rejected, this applying also to the one doing the rejecting. Misinterpreting a rejection is perhaps one of the flaws in our reaction to being rejected.

Growing up, I thought it was my job as a good person to be friendly with all I meet, even expecting that those folk would become long-time friends. Aside from the difficult personalities that I naively believed were truly not mean to their core, disappointing it was/is to face the reality that in spite of the significant effort made to build a relationship, some just don’t think we’re worth it.

The REAL reason(s) for being rejected will in all probability remain a mystery for us. We can guess, surmise, remember an unpleasant interaction or two, but our perception of the relationship will be different or even opposite to whatever the other person might believe or feel.

KAAILOPERS  / QUAY RUNNERS – Belgian sculptor Valeer Peirsman


In closing, I share with you The Rule of Ten as given to me while pregnant by my tending physician. It’s a tool that continues to guide me with respect to how much I invest in those whose path crosses mine, especially now as I explore Act III of my life when time, resources, and energy can wane—

  • There are a maximum of 10 people in our life that will have a ‘hole in their heart’ when we die. Treat them with kid-gloves!
  • The next group is made up of friends/colleagues that when we die, they may miss us, and perhaps even attend our funeral if it’s convenient, but their grief will be brief as they easily resume their everyday life. Therefore, mark carefully your investment of time and energy.
  • The third group is generally made up of those who come and go over the decades. These are those we might feel a deep connection with while on an African Safari or during the six intensive weeks of the musical we’re both in… They might raise an eyebrow or even feel a tinge of sadness upon hearing of our death, but that’s about it, so don’t go all out.
FRIENDSHIP KNOT – American sculptor Shinkichi Tajiri  Los Angeles, California


St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354 – 430

The first thing that you should observe in friendship ought to be gratuitous. I mean, the reason you have a friend, or love one, ought not to be so that he can do something for you; if that’s why you love him, so that he can get you some money, or some temporal advantage, then you aren’t really loving him, but the thing he gets for you. A friend is to be loved freely, for his own sake, not for the sake of something else. *

LEAN ON ME — Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, John Legend at the 2015 Induction Ceremony


Canadian Poet John Imrie 1846-1902

Friendship is a golden band linking life with life, heart to heart, and hand to hand, antidote to strife.

Friendship is a silken cord, beautiful and strong, guarding, by each kindly word, loving hearts from wrong.

Friendship is a beacon-light on life’s rocky shore, brightest in our darkest night when the breakers roar.

Friendship is an iron shield, where life’s cruel darts ever may be forced to yield, ere they wound true hearts.

Friendship is the gift of God freely to us given, as the flowers that gem the sod, or the light of heaven!


Robert Frost

When a friend calls to me from the road And slows his horse to a meaning walk,

I don’t stand still and look around on all the hills I haven’t hoed, and shout from where I am, What is it?

No, not as there is a time to talk.

I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground, Blade-end up and five feet tall,

And plod: I go up to the stone wall

For a friendly visit.


Aging and Friendships


  1. 10 Surprising Facts About Loneliness
  2. Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions
  3. Loneliness An Epidemic 


Arrow & the Song
May the Road Rise to Meet You
Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen
Looking Back
Can’t help Lovin’ That Man
Young As The Spring
Danny Boy | Too-Ra-Loo | How Ireland Got Its Name
ROSE in a BROKEN BOTTLE – Adult novel based on a true story
NINE GIFTS- with Study Guide
THE CURSE – with Study Guide
RUSH of the RAVEN’S WINGS – Youth short story with Study Guide
NO PASSPORT FOR ÉTIENNE – Short story inspired by true events
THEFT OF BABY ILY – Short story inspired by true events
MYSTERY of the SINGING GHOST – with Study Guide
MYSTERY of the TRACTOR GHOST – with Study Guide
MYSTERY of the THREE SISTERS – with Study Guide
MYSTERY of the LOST CELL PHONE – with Study Guide
TEDDY MEETS KIBOKO – Children’s novel with Study Guide
KIDNAPPED SANTA – Children’s novel with Study Guide


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