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Why My 'Old' Friends Help Me Through Depression Better Than My 'Young' Ones

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It took me a long time to realize I was a square peg in a round hole. No matter how hard I tried, I’ve never felt like I fit in with those my age. At each stage of life, I assured myself I’d fit in at the next. It didn’t happen. In recent times, it has become even more difficult to be social because my failing health — both mental and physical — has resulted in my stopping work. As a family our budget is modest, there is no room for meals out and nights of cocktails.

It would be a lie to say the realization I mentioned above came easily — it did not! I spent many hours, weeks, months, maybe even years crying about feeling lonely, isolated and left out. Despite the fact I’ve felt so uncomfortable when trying to slip into the groups I have thought I should be a part of (I have tried repeatedly, for myself and for my kids) it only resulted in loneliness that has been horrifying in its intensity, and terribly bad for my mental health.

The enlightenment I’d been seeking all my life came in January this year. Just past turning 34 years of age, I finally was struck with clarity. After a particularly difficult relapse into depression, I realized something that changed my outlook so much — I am good enough how I am, and I do not, and should not need to keep trying to change to make friends with those who are not interested in loving me back, only in receiving — these are not the people I should be chasing for approval.

I stopped contorting myself to try and fit where I didn’t belong, and started looking for those who love me how I am — those who want me in their lives, not those who only want what I can do for them.

Who were these beautiful people I found when I stopped looking in the wrong places? They were the old lady friends and the old men friends too! When I say “old,” I only mean it in a technical way, they are young and sprightly in their souls — they are fun and loving, and full of kindness and vigor. For those of you who may still be seeking your place in the world, here are a few reasons why older ones may make the best friends, and why you should never give up trying to find where you fit!

They don’t care that you stay in on Friday and Saturday nights.

There is no need to feel guilty canceling plans for dinner at that swanky restaurant because a last minute bill came in — you never made plans in the first place! Plus when you do make plans, they don’t even mind if you leave after half an hour because you’re tired — they understand that sometimes your body doesn’t care how much you wanted to be there and that it makes the rules. They value their alone time, and respect you for needing yours.

They know tea and biscuits are always a good idea.

Really, very little needs to be said about this. There is barely anything that can’t be solved or at least helped by a good cup of tea, a biscuit and a chat with a friend — older people live by this philosophy, and it is a darn good one. It is amazing how the stories can flow when your fingers are wrapped around the warmth of a tea cup — if you are having a particularly bad day, add an extra spoon of sugar and settle in.

They are warm and accepting of the difficulties people can face in life.

Older friends seem to be so accepting of others mental, physical and even social issues, and are only too happy to give you support, and they love to have someone who is willing to listen and empathize with them, too. They have “lived” experience in how life can twist and turn, not once have these beautiful friends told me to “get over” my depression, or asked in a frustrated tone if I am “still not better” in regards to my chronic pain. Instead they offer a hug and empathy, along with a listening ear and open heart.

They understand what it means to value their friendships.

Time and unforeseen circumstances befall us all. They’ve lived through loss themselves and appreciate that being there for each other is more than a catch phrase on a Hallmark card. I’ve never known anyone to be as loving, or as thankful as older people often are. They value their friendships, old and new, and make sure that you know you are loved. They have no time for fakeness, peer pressure or mind games. Life is too short for that kind of nonsense — their friendship is genuine, and they ask the same from you. Approach everything with a real and honest heart and you will fit in just fine. Plus they value the courage it takes to say, “No” and won’t pressure you to join in anything you can’t or do not want to.

They know how to accept your love with gratitude.

This is the thing I have found the most beautiful about older ones, they are gracious. They accept your love, be it in the form of a home cooked meal, a cupcake you saved just for them or even just a hug when you see them with gratefulness — they are thankful that you noticed their need, and they warm your heart by genuine acceptance and warmth. It warms my heart to see them smile lovingly at my children as they offer up a homemade card, or to hug my husband because he helped them with their mobile phone. Others of lesser years would often not think of these as anything to be thankful for, instead expecting it is a right to have attention and help from others.

Older ones are often left behind and forgotten about, their families have grown and left home, often moving interstate or even overseas — some have lost their mates in death, or suffer from ill health themselves. Just because they are older, they should never be discounted for all they still have to give, and to receive, some of the most cherish friends I will ever have are more than 30 to 50 years older than me.

I regret that I spent so many years trying to fit in with the groups that seemed age appropriate — friendship truly does not have an age limit on it. You can be friends with those who are younger than you, you can be friends with those the same age as you, and you can certainly be friends with those who are older than you.

Of all the people I have come to know, the “old lady” and “old man” friends are forever going to be my favorite!

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Thinkstock photo via sanjagrujic.

Originally published: October 9, 2017
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