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Baby Boomers In  Midlife Transitions

When Marge Burger’s husband died of a heart attack seven years ago, she made a sad discovery: Widows don’t get invited to many dances. Or card games. Or dinners. “I still had loyal friends, but I just didn’t seem to fit in,” she says.

Like many seniors her age, the 74-year-old resident of Portland, Oregon, slipped into a quiet, lonely rut. She enjoyed time with her children and grandchildren, but she spent most of her time sitting around her house, trying not to miss a minute of her favorite soap operas. It was a comfortable life, and she hated it. “Living alone is the pits,” she says. “When you enjoy a conversation with a cat, things are pretty bad.”

Nobody in her situation would disagree: At any age, loneliness is a curse. And for older people, a lack of a social life can even be hazardous to their health. People who don’t get out much often succumb to depression, a condition that in turn makes them vulnerable to many illnesses, including heart disease, alcoholism, diabetes and, perhaps, cancer.

Socializing extends your life

But just as loneliness can destroy a person’s life, socializing can save it. In a 13-year study published in 1999 of almost 3,000 senior citizens, Harvard researchers found that social activities such as playing bingo or attending church were as important to survival as regular exercise. That’s right: When it comes to adding years to one’s life, looking for bingo’s O-62 is right up there with jogging.


People who need people are still the luckiest people in the world. One of the most important elements in preventing the midlife transition from becoming a midlife crisis, is to develop and sustain friendships.

Good friends enrich our lives in so many ways. Life revolves around relationships and one of the best ways to discover ourselves is through the combination of similarities and differences we experience through friendships.  It is often through contrast that we become the best person we can be.

Similarities

While it is said that opposites attract, it is often our similarities that draw our friends to us. Although, I must admit I friends who are not at all like me. When I need support, I go to the friends who resemble me the closest.  When I need to reflect and perhaps make a hard decision, it’s often the friends who are different from myself who provide the most assistance.  Friends who view the world differently then I do, offer a point of view I might not have considered otherwise. 

Differences

At times, those who appear to be our opposites, are merely showing us the shadow parts of ourselves we haven’t discovered yet.  Part of the midlife transition is to learn to accept ourselves for who we are. It also opens our hearts to accept differences of opinions and experiences that allow us to broaden our horizons.

Support

Sometimes our friends act as a mirror, reflecting who we are.  Our similarities are often comforting because they show us we are not alone. The Midlife Transition can be a lonely time if you think no one else is experiencing the transition but you.  When others share their experiences, you get a sense that you are not alone.

All of us need to be accepted just the way we are, without demands that we change.
Acceptance is a priceless gift our friends give us.  Ultimately, we choose friends because of the way they make us feel about ourselves and the shared values we hold.  Our friends are people we can laugh with, cry with and depend upon in good times and bad.

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