Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Mixing Friendship and Family May Not Pan Out

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Mixing Friendship and Family May Not Pan Out

Article excerpt


A trendy topic in aging these days has to do with something we've always known, deep down -- that social connections can be more important than health or wealth in extending life and ensuring quality of life.

If sitting is the new smoking for office workers, then isolation is the new smoking for elders.

I've seen conflicting research on which is better -- friends or families -- for fending off isolation, and I suspect the scientific consensus will eventually be that in the best of all possible worlds you need both. But in Sarasota, especially, I have seen a robust circle of friends become family for those who find themselves alone and far from home near the end of their days.

On Friday I wrote about an ongoing, informal gathering in Sarasota called Men on Main Street -- MOMS -- and spoke with Harvard psychiatrist Jacqueline Olds about how these retired gentlemen nourish each other on a daily basis. She and her colleague/husband Richard S. Schwartz wrote a book on the cultural challenges facing adult friendship, "The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty- first Century."

Olds had plenty to say about MOMS. But she also wanted to talk about a phenomenon that concerns her, having to do with the trend away from traditional male bonding outside the home. This affects those Americans who reached adulthood after the wholesale shift of women from home to workplace, which means the baby boom and those who came after.

"Husbands and wives today are often supposed to be each other's best friends -- and sometimes only friends," she points out.

With husbands and fathers expected to have a full share in child- rearing and housework, she says, a recipe for male isolation in retirement may have been already been whipped together and placed in the oven.

"For the younger men who are so participatory in their families and child care, with jobs and trying to be best friends with their partner, there's no time left for having friends," she observes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.