Except for people… there are very few people up here on the mountain. Oh, we have skype and modern technology to keep in touch with family and friends. And we are making new friends but here on the mountain new friends are an hours drive away and social technology can only go so far.
It’s as though we a participating in our own social experiment.
- Our Unintended Question: What is the effect of the absence of close social interaction on midlife adults?
- Our Hypothesis: If given a luxurious lifestyle and modern technology, there would be no discernable effect.
- Experiment: Move an average couple to a gorgeous mountain top, away from family and friends. Give them every want and luxury. Let them openly communicate with friends and family with top modern day technology.
- Result: We discovered that close contact relationships have become more precious than any amount of travel, leisure or money.
Our inadvertent experiment and its results match what the current overarching research tells us about the nature of friendship and aging.
First the the Science:
In 1948 the World Health Organization defined health not as the absence of illness but as the presence of well-being—physical, mental, and social.
Two exceptional studies, The Harvard Grant Study on Aging and the Australian Longitudinal Study on Aging, both conclude that having good social relationships are the biggest predictor of general well-being as you get older.
THE BIGGEST PREDICTOR OF GENERAL WELL-BEING! OMG
Now while these conclusions seem obvious from a distance, as the ravages of time affect us, the number of pals can drop. We move away from one another. Retirement reduces work friendships. Spouses and friends die. The opportunities to make new friends lessen and we become complacent with a certain status quo.
It’s easy to forget, as Husband and I did, how critical having pals around is to our general well being as we live through our changes.
As it turns our family just isn’t enough. Interestingly the Harvard Grant Study concludes that men’s predictor is their relationship with their wives; while the Austrailian study concludes the opposite is true for women. The Oxford Gerontological Review of all the longitudinal studies concludes while that family relations (including spouses) caused both positive and negative effects on our health as we get older (no poop, Sherlock), friendships only produced positive. In fact, social companions help us live longer and more happily! The good news is the Austrailian study showed that women’s social relationships grow more deeply as they get older.
If we want a robust Third Act it’s critical that we need to remember that old Girl Scout Tune:
and the other is gold.