By Mike Smith
Many people in the gay community often enjoy a robust group of friends and wide array of acquaintances, especially when we’re younger. We are always out socializing. We volunteer our time with organizations and spend time regularly at our places of worship. Stereotypically speaking, we’re extroverts. We meet up with friends for drinks, go out with our coworkers after work—all providing opportunities to meet people and make new friends.
Perhaps we have more energy to socialize when we’re younger, or just naturally put ourselves in the way of meeting new people as we build our chosen community driven by curiosity, or to meet our forever person. The friendships we make when we’re younger tend to have a richer connection and psychologists have something to say about this. Basically, we’re wired this way. We are wired to make richer connections when we’re younger as we seek to know and understand ourselves, we do the same with others, therefore creating strong relationships due to shared experience. Of course, not all gays have big social circles, but most of us have at least a few close friends or people we rely on and share our life with.
As we age, we often find it harder to meet new people and certainly harder to develop long-lasting friendships like the ones we created in our younger years. Our social circles tend to shrink for many reasons. Maybe we move apart from those friends or maybe we get consumed with work as we grow through the ranks in our careers, leaving less time for friendships. Quite possibly, our interests change, and it becomes less important to spend time with those friends who shared those old ideas. Furthermore, our coupled friends tend to spend more time together and doing things with other coupled friends, which can leave singles alone, or shall we say “fiercely independent”.
Why does any of this matter? What are we to do to maintain and develop friendships that will be with us in our mature years? And, why is it important to do so? What is the younger generation’s responsibility and what should our commitment be to the generation before us?
Ultimately, the reason we should consider these questions is about building a strong community—single, married, or partnered. The fact that many of us won’t have children, or family to help us as we age, should be a driver in our aging plan. In our later years of life, our need to rely on our chosen friendships for support whether health, social, physical, or spiritual, can help us grow and live out our life gracefully.
As we age, we should put ourselves out there to meet new people and to keep our friends funnel open and be intentional about building relationships with new friends. It’s a healthy intention. Take a cooking class, join a gym, join a faith community, or invite interesting people to dinner or a drink. Get out there…it’s enriching, and it’s needed to ensure we grow older with friends to share it with.
Those from younger generations should consider how to meet those more mature in our community. Many from the older gay community have a lot to offer and it’s pretty refreshing spending time with those who aren’t in to drama and have a certain sense of self, learning from their wisdom, while also helping them in the process—which, after all, is what friendship is really about.