The importance of friendship

In the May 2012 issue of The Atlantic magazine, Stephen Marche tells the story of Yvette Vickers, a former Playboy playmate and B-movie star, who lay dead in her home in Los Angeles “for the better part of a year”  before a neighbor found her mummified body.

Yvette Vickers, Marche says, had no children, no religious group and no social circle of any kind. In the months before her death, she didn’t call friends or family. Instead, her phone bills show, she talked to distant fans who had found her through fan conventions and Internet sites.

“Vickers’s web of connections had grown broader but shallower, as has happened for many of us,” Marche writes. “We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier.”

What a sad story. And, Marche quotes statistics that suggest that Yvette Vickers was not alone in her loneliness. A 2010 AARP survey found that 35 percent of adults older than 45 were chronically lonely. Another survey found that 25 percent of Americans had nobody to talk to, and 20 percent had only one confidant.

In his book Aging Well, George Vaillant stresses the importance of social networks. “Before and after age 50, cultivate the richest social network you possibly can,” he says. “Your life will be better for it.”

We like the word cultivate! We have friends, but we’re both going to make a commitment to cultivate friends this summer. We’re going to call an old friend, invite a friend to lunch and make a new friend.

We’ll talk more about friendship in our next blog post