Hopscotch. We played the game every day after school. We played it on the sidewalks and in the playgrounds outside the eighteen-floor brick building that was our home in Brooklyn, New York. We played as a way to hang out with each other. We were friends. We were friends because we were the same age and lived a floor from each other.
How do we hang out with our friends as adults? One way is to share housing, and reap the benefits of shared housing.
Friendships matter for our emotional and physical health. Strong friendships are shown by researchers to be an important key to successful aging. They matter because we are social animals and we need social connection. In the United States, at least, researchers report that there has been a large decline in the number of people who have a close confidant outside of their immediate family.
Time and Proximity
Friendships need both time and proximity. In other words, we need to hang out with our friends. There’s an old Viking saying from the Havemel that is translated as, “A bad friend is far away though his cottage is close, to a true friend lies a trodden path though his farm lies far away.”
The “well-trodden path” represents all the time we spend with our friend. When we spend time, we give our friend our attention. We give them our presence. We give them our eyes and ears, our heart and our mind. We talk, we laugh, we create memories together.
We share. We may share hopscotch or bridge or chess. We may share hiking, skiing or hunting. We may share movies, opera and museums. We may share social justice causes and politics. We may share a spiritual practice. We may share making music, dancing and acting. We may share dog shows, music making or motorcycle racing. This list can go on forever because there are an amazing number of human activities. There’s something for everyone.
Not all friends are the same, of course. Some are closer than others. Some are acquaintances. Different people bring out different parts of ourselves.
How It Develops
But how does a stranger turn into an acquaintance? How does an acquaintance turn into a friendship? By being together. By taking the time. It’s an incremental process of getting to know another person. By sharing something of who you are and listening to who the other person is. This is a reciprocal process. You share a bit, and the other person shares a bit. You are encouraged to share more and the other takes a risk to share more. It takes time.
Steps to Making Friends
In former times this was a lot easier. But because we now live in such individualized, unconnected society, we have to work on developing friendships. If you want to have more friends, if you are finding your opportunities for being social to be limited, you need to take some proactive steps. For instance:
- Find an activity you like that meets once a week. People who like the same things you do is an excellent place to start since you already have something in common. An activity that meets once a week is often enough that it doesn’t take long for you to be part of the group. Better, find more than one activity to join.
- Go to it. There is always a first time. Scary, but do it anyway. The second time you’ll know more about what to expect.
- Take part. Be helpful. Volunteer.
- As you get to know the people, is there someone you’d like to know better? Spend time together outside the activity. This could be getting together for coffee (tea, wine) or to engage more in the activity you both like.
- When you are together, listen and share. Make it more about the other person than you. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. No one wants to hear all about you all the time.
If you have friends you have neglected, get back in touch with them. A true friend will be delighted you made the effort. Make the path between your home and theirs a “well-trodden” path. Set up a plan to have a weekly meal together or some other activity that fits your friendship.
Sharing A Home
Another way to have friends in your life is to share housing. Living with someone you like and respect gives you the time and proximity for them to become a friend. You share making a home together. This doesn’t mean you are joined at the hip. You have independent lives and outside interests. At home you meet up, you share about your day, you might have a meal together, you hang out together. You are home-mates.
If the idea of a home-mate appeals to you, find someone suitable uses the steps listed above. You can also talk about it among your current friends. Yes, it’s a big change. The potential rewards in emotional and physical health are significant. There are many stories about people who have chosen to live with others here.
Art of Friendship
The art of friendship is captured in this quote from Zig Ziglar, “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”
Go create some “well-trodden paths.”
What kind of “well-trodden paths” do you already have? Do you find it difficult to make new friends? Why? Why not? Have you considered living with a home-mate?
This article was first posted here.
Read more about creating deep connections with shared housing: Unexpectedly Gaining a Deep Friendship , Traveling Together— A Good Test of Home-Mate Compatibility?
Last Updated on January 20, 2019 by Bob Sherwood
Love reading this! I’ve read an article that says that people with friends are happier and friendship is correlated with a more joyful life.
Thank you! I love it.
I’m not married and have no children, and don’t want to end up an “elder orphan.” So, I have researched living options for aging boomer women for several years. I want to share a home not only to save money, but to live with friends in a community that feels like a friends in a neighborhood, and not a country club.
Sharing a home is the most logical, most comfortable, and probably the easiest way to find what I’m looking for. But I’m apprehensive about the risks involved; many women I’ve talked with are. It would be great to share examples of living arrangements. Make it an intentional community by creating contract templates to handle the legal & financial necessities of a variety of scenarios. That would make it easier for everyone.
Also, continued development of Village to Village Networks would help home sharing tremendously.
Thank you for everything you’re doing to help.
Thanks! Yes, it’s a great idea and there are risks…
Have you read the “Real People Sharing Housing” posts?
A top-notch article with excellent advice on making friends and a logical bridge to finding good of home-mates. I think I’ve said before that becoming a home-mate was how I left one life in California and started a new one here in Vermont. That was 28 years ago – I’ve never regretted it. Single parent groups, hiking groups, photography groups, singing in a chorus – so many possibilities but it’s not the simplest thing to keep up along with a full time job.The home-mate solution supports so many parts of daily life. Very glad that your wisdom about this is taking off!
Love the idea of not “aging in place in isolation” and your emphasis on considering time and proximity must be included in your decision making. The Ziggy Ziglar quote about finding friendship should be quoted often. We have recently finished our first year living in a new Senior Cohousing Community in Oakland, CA – a very positive experience and we have learned a lot. Although seeking social contacts are a good beginning, working together FREQUENTLY is a great key to success. The step of finding shared housing as a strategy should be an active pursuit for almost all seniors, especially those many seniors that have or will face financial issues. The effects of isolation leads to social, emotional and physical atrophy and the best way to combat it is to seek and participate community. It should be a top priority – the quality of your life as you age depends on it. Again, great article.